MANILA –At least 51 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have surrendered to military units nationwide as the government offensive against the insurgents enter its third week.
This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo in a statement Sunday.
“Three weeks since the government waged an ‘all-out war’ against terrorist NPA, 51 of their members surrendered to the AFP,” he added.
“And the exodus is expected to continue with numerous others sending their surrender (feelers) to the AFP,” Arevalo disclosed.
And while the AFP is readying itself for the surrender of these rebels, he clarified that these surrenders are without conditions apart from the program afforded by government to rebel returnees.
“On Feb. 23 alone, the AFP received 10 surrenderers from the NPA,” Arevalo disclosed.
Two more rebels surrendered last Feb. 24 -Allan Mating, 19, surrendered to the 25th Infantry Battalion in Compostela Valley while Arjay Bangue gave himself up along with his M-16 rifle to troops of the 73rd Infantry Battalion in Davao Occidental.
Since Feb. 4, the AFP has already conducted 36 small unit operations against the NPA, with an average of two encounters a day. During the same period, the AFP was able to apprehend 17 NPA members, Arevalo added.
Most recent of the arrests was the capture of top NPA leader Ernesto Samarita in Nasugbu, Batangas on February 21.
His group was responsible for the numerous atrocities and large scale extortions in Pico De Loro, Batangas.
Starting Feb. 4 up to the present, military units also recovered a total of 37 high-powered and low-powered firearms from the NPAs.
Meanwhile, the body count on the rebels’ side is now at 14 following the latest encounter on Friday.
Two NPA members were killed in the operation launched by elements of the 61st Infantry Battalion in Maayon, Capiz. The troops also recovered two shotguns and two hand grenades from the NPAs.
“On the government’s side, the AFP has already recorded 37 casualties. Of which, seven were killed-in-action while 30 were wounded in operations launched against the NPAs,” Arevalo disclosed.
The most recent operations were reported in Davao Oriental and Agusan Del Sur in Feb. 24.
A private from the operating troops of the 67th Infantry Battalion was wounded after an encounter with two NPA members in Barangay Campawan, Baganga, Davao Oriental.
Two other personnel, a sergeant and a private first class were wounded in a firefight against 10 NPA rebels in Barangay Limot, Viruela, Agusan Del Sur.
The AFP is also on track with regard to its rescue operations aimed at freeing the NPA’s captives.
At present, they are holding six individuals against their will; soldiers Pfc. Erwin Salan, Sgt. Solaiman Calocop, and Pfc. Samuel Garay; CAFGU member Rene Doller; and two police personnel.
In spite of the ongoing operations against the NPA, the AFP remains open to the possibility of resuming the peace negotiations.
“More than anyone, it is our soldiers who want peace. This is why the AFP hopes the NPA will heed our government’s call and comply with the conditions that shall bring the situation conducive to peace negotiations and towards permanently ending the hostilities that mar this more than four decades of insurgency,” Arevalo stressed.
“However, until the NPA agrees to the government’s conditions, the AFP will continue with our operations to stop their atrocities that impair the lives of our people in the communities,” he added.
“We will pursue the momentum in the implementation of the all-out war through deliberate, surgical, focused, and well-planned combat, intelligence and civil-military operations against the NPA,” the AFP official pointed out.