CATBALOGAN, Philippines — Hard off-grid living and a revolution that seemed to be going nowhere forced “James” (not his real name) to surrender to Philippine National Police (PNP) authorities in Samar province, Eastern Visayas in February 2023.
“Mahirap ang buhay sa bundok. Pagod na rin ako sa kakatakbo kapag may patrolyang sundalo sa kabundukan,” the former New People’s Army (NPA) squad leader and native of Basey town explained on February 17. (Life is hard in the mountains. I grew tired of running away every time we saw a military patrol.)
The PNP presented him along with more than a hundred “rebel surrenders” to journalists at their regional headquarters in Palo, Leyte.
James, who now resides in Tacloban City, told Rappler in an interview that the last straw was when he got wounded during a recent encounter in Eastern Samar.
The former guerrilla could not give the exact date of the clash.
Army authorities said their most recent encounter with rebels in Eastern Samar was on October 7, 2022, when the New People’s Army attacked Brgy. Dorillo, Jipapad town. The rebels killed two soldiers and wounded three others, including a minor.
James was hit on his leg during their retreat. He said fellow cadres might have seen him as a liability as they tried to evade pursuing troops.
They left him in the care of some civilians, leaving P5,000 for medicines and other needs.
They never came back, he told Rappler.
The AFP Joint Task Force Storm (JTS) on November 23 clashed with rebels in Las Navas, Northern Samar, 19 kilometers north from Jipapad town.
Six guerrillas, allegedly behind the October 7 NPA raid, died and government troops seized 16 high-powered firearms
After several weeks of surviving the worst of his leg wounds, James decided to seek treatment at a hospital in Tacloban City.
War-weary, scared, and disappointed, his next stop was the regional police headquarters in Palo, Leyte.
On Feb. 12, he surrendered to the 805th Mobile Company, Regional Mobile Force Battalion 8.
James turned over two sidearms and other firearms and ammunition, said the police.
There was no returning to his old post as leader of the small regional guerrilla unit (RGU) operation in the Samar towns of Sta. Rita, Besey, and Marabut, and parts of Eastern Samar.
James’ hopes were similar to that of 17 other cadres who were presented with him: a more settled life with his family, help with livelihood.
The returnees brought in weapons – caliber .45 and caliber .38 pistols, grenades, improvised hand guns, and ammunition.
Seven of them, including James, were from Samar; six from Eastern Samar; and five from Northern Samar.
On March 3, the provincial government of Eastern Samar and the Army’s 8th Infantry Division (8!D) paid out P760,000 under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) to 24 former rebels during rites in Borongan City, Eastern Samar.
Eight former NPA regular members received P65,000, while 16 former Militia ng Bayan(MB) members each received P15,000.
At that time, the 8ID said it had processed 104 regular guerillas and 1,707 militia members in 2022.
Lt. Col. Allan Tria, head of the 78th Infantry Battalion on March 3 said the assistance extended to former rebels would help them restart their lives.
“We want you in our towns so that we can check that you are being cared for. It’s not just the local government; our national government also cares for you,” Eastern Samar Vice-Governor Maria Caridad Goteesan told the former rebels in a mix of Waray and English during the ceremony.
Before receiving E-CLIP, the beneficiaries also received government financial assistance through the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP), and the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office (DSWD). They also participated in various livelihood training.
Like the surrenderers processed by the Army, James and others handled by the police have also received financial assistance, around P5,000 each, more a police director’s personal aid, not the official E-CLIP payout.
Eastern Visayas police director B/Gen. Rommel Marbil said that since James and his batch of ex-rebels had completed their “debriefing,” they would receive more aid once they passed the requirements of the E-CLIP.
The E-CLIP is a package of cash incentives aimed at enticing rebels to surface and start new lives with their families.
In the case of James, the gov’t will determine if the guns he turned over are still “serviceable.”
The remuneration will range from PHP10,000 to P200,000 for a high-powered firearm.
Most NPA guerrillas are peasants or agricultural and industrial workers, drawn from the well of alienated poor since the CPP-NPA-NDF rebellion started in 1969.
Asia’s longest-running insurgency had about 25,000 guerrillas at its peak in the late 1980s, but military officials in 2019 said its numbers had dwindled to about 4,000.
In January 2023, the 801st Brigade presented 13 “NPA leaders,” including the alleged former chief of the NPA’s Bugsok Platoon, a unit supervised by a Samar province-based sub regional committee of the Eastern Visayas regional committee.
Brigadier General Lenard Lelina, brigade commander, said their unit had processed 77 guerrilla surrenderers, 102 members of the local militia (part-time guerrillas), and 929 mass supporters in 2022.
The military and local government officials see the E-CLIP and the barangay development funds administered by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as critical to the anti-insurgency campaign.
The NTF-ELCAC rewards barangays that cooperate with the AFP to clear their communities of communist presence.
But critics, including senators, have slammed the NTF-ELCAC for poor stewardship of funds.
The NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program had a P16.4 billion budget in 2021, but only 26 out 2,318 projects were completed by the time the 2022 budget hearings got underway.
In August 2022, the Commission on Audit (COA) said the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office in Caraga (Region 13), could not substantiate the recipients of 330 persons who received P5.3- million from the cash aid program for former rebels, a year after their financial report was flagged.
That represents 10% of the reported 4,000-membership of the NPA. – Rappler.com
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.