Four New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who surrendered to the Philippine Army’s 53rd Infantry (MATAPAT) Battalion (53rd IB) say that they are forced to give up their armed struggle because of hardship and hunger during successive recent encounters with the government forces.
One former rebel said his former comrades in the NPA armed group are facing a grave crisis and are in dire need of food, health care, and rest.
Last Saturday, July 11, 2020, a firefight transpired between troops of 53rd IB and the communist NPA Main Regional Guerilla Unit (MRGU) and HQ “KALAW” of Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC) at the boundary of Sitio Tumanong, Barangay Macasing, and Sitio Lacnapan, Barangay Pange, both in Siayan town, Zamboanga Del Norte.
No casualty was incurred on the government side.
The MRGU and HQ “KALAW” of WMRPC yielded high-powered firearms and Improvised explosive device (IED) which were captured by troops of 53rd IB including a .50-caliber Sniper Rifle (Barrett) and 23 rounds of ammunition; Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and 2 ammo; M16 assault rifle and 4 magazines; improvised shotgun; 2 backpacks and a hammock, medical paraphernalia, subversive documents, and assorted medicines.
An NPA rebel who surrendered was the bearer of RPG. “Had I not surrendered to the Army, I would have died in that firefight still holding my [RPG] weapon,” he said.
“I am forever thankful we did the right thing. If I did not surrender, I would have died without seeing my wife and children,” he added.
On July 10, 2020, less than 24 hours before the firefight in Sitio Lacnapan, a firefight also transpired in Kalawit, Zamboanga Del Norte between the Army’s combined forces of 44th, 42nd, and 97th Infantry Battalions, and the same NPA MRGU and HQ “KALAW” of WMRPC.
Two NPA terrorists were killed during the firefight and two high-powered firearms were recovered.
As the WMRPC lost two battles in less than a day, the NPA rebel who surrendered said his former comrades-in-arms miss their family and are also considering surrendering to the authorities but they fear that they might be killed by the NPAs.
“Many of my former comrades want to surrender, but they are afraid that they might be killed [by the NPAs],” he said.
In a statement, 53rd IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera said the unit will do everything to protect all NPA rebels who will surrender.
“Once an NPA surrenders, he or she is now one of us. We will do everything to protect them and facilitate their benefits under various government programs and initiatives. One of these is the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP),” Lt. Col. Herrera said.