President also promises them transitory housing units, cash and financial assistance, food packs, and a smartphone under the military’s comprehensive local integration programme
Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte promised protection to communist insurgents who will surrender to the government while similarly assuring them of assistance as return to civilian life.
During a speech welcoming back to the folds of law two members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) who recently surrendered, the President promised government protection to Randy Atong and Rene Atienza, both former members of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).
Atong is finance and logistics officer of the SMRC while Atenza is a platoon leader of a guerrilla unit.
The president in a speech in Davao City’s Matina, expressed his gratitude to the two former rebels for deciding to surrender.
The president said it his obligation to protect the rebels who will surrender to the government. The NPA is known to harbour ill feelings against former comrades who had turned their back on the insurgency movement.
Aside from promising protection to two rebels who had surrendered, Duterte also promised them transitory housing units, cash and financial assistance, food packs, and a smartphone under the military’s comprehensive local integration programme (CLIP).
At the same time, Duterte appealed to the former NPA members for their continued support to his administration and to call on their ex-comrades to surrender and become part of the society.
The NPA SMRC operates in one of the rich areas for extortion of the rebels. Big commercial as well as agricultural enterprises operate in the region which helps finance the insurgency movement.
First Lieutenant China Celina Castro, regional Army spokesperson said the insurgents “were already tired of fighting against the government forces.”
“This, coupled with the experience of starvation caused by the dwindling support from their mass base forced them to decide to return to the folds of the law,” she said.
It can be recalled that Duterte began his administration in mid-2016 with an invitation to the insurgents under the NPA to sit on the negotiating table and seek an end to the nearly five decades-old insurgent conflict.
The offer was extended to the members of the NPA’s ideological backbone, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the rebel negotiating arm of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Known communists were even given a chance to participate in governance and given positions in the cabinet. Jailed rebels like Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Tiamzon, who were facing criminal charges, were released from prison in the hope that they would help in the peace process.
However, despite the parlays starting on a positive note, the talks went nowhere as with previous attempts for constructive engagement as rebels continued attacks against government forces.
The Tiamzon couple is presently at large and are being sought by the government.
From a peak of some 25,000 members during the 1980s, the CPP-NPA-NDF has an estimated strength of more than 4,000 armed regulars and irregulars today.