Three members of peasant group, Unyon ng Mag-uuma sa Agusan (UMA), suspected of having links with the communist rebel movement, were among the 25 members and supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to the government in Agusan del Norte.
1Lt. Roel T. Maglalang, the civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion, told Philippine News Agency on August 24, 2020, that the 25 NPA members and supporters pledged allegiance to the government on August 23, 2020, in a ceremony held in Barangay Aclan, Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.
Of the 25 surrenderers, 15 were members of the Militia ng Bayan (MB) while 10 were NPA supporters in Barangay Aclan, including the three members of UMA, he added.
“As they withdrew their support to the communist movement last Sunday, the former Communist NPA Terrorist (CNT) members also vowed to support the different peace and development initiatives of the government that will be implemented in their communities,” Maglalang said.
The 25 surrenderers were part of the underground network of the Guerrilla Front 4A that operates in the areas of Agusan del Norte under the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) of the NPA, the Army official said.
On Aug. 20, a mass surrender ceremony of 29 MB members and 121 mass supporters of GF-4A was also facilitated by 23IB in the town of Carmen, Agusan del Norte.
The ceremony on Sunday was graced by 23rd IB commander Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, Councilor Felipe Abigan who heads the Committee on Peace and Order of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Nasipit, and the barangay officials of Barangay Aclan.
In a statement on Monday, 23IB quoted alias “Noni”, a member of UMA, expressing regret in joining the NPA for more than three years.
“For more than three years of sacrifices I saw no chances that the communist movement can provide us land to be tilled as they promised,” Noni said in the dialect, adding he was enticed by the NPA by promising him land and financial support for his family.
“I was convinced given that a piece of land will be given to me and some considerable support to my family. My life was put in danger during the years of my active membership to the organization. No support was given to my family and the land they promised is impossible to be realized,” Noni said.
He said he was encouraged to surrender upon hearing from former rebels of the government’s assistance for NPA returnees.
Meanwhile, Paulo lauded the determination of the members of MB and underground mass supporters of GF-4A to “change their lives for a better and brighter future”.
“Your presence here signifies that you are no longer happy with the presence of the CNTs in your communities. In the last fifty-two (52) years of waging their futile ideology, no developments and peace were facilitated by the CNTs in your communities but hardships, hunger, and poverty. That’s a fact,” Paulo said.
He told the surrenderers that while the ordinary NPA members suffer, including their families, “the CNT leaders are the ones who benefited from the useless revolution they are waging”.
“Compare your lives with the CNT leaders and you can see a big difference. It only means that this revolution has turned into a milking cow of the CNT leaders, especially those at the national level,” Paulo said.
He added that the day they pledged allegiance to the government marks the start of the entry of development interventions of various agencies and the LGU into their communities.
“The CNTs hindered and prevented the projects and programs of the government because they don’t want to see development in every community. They only want the people to suffer and remain poor so that they can use poverty and other social issues in their propagandas to recruit new members,” Paulo said. (Alexander Lopez, PNA)