MANILA –Around 65 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have voluntarily surrendered to authorities as the government all-out offensive against the insurgents enters its fourth week.
“As of this morning (February 28), 65 members of the NPA have already surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), most of which are citing hardships, family reasons and hope for a better life outside the organization. Most of these surrenderers already expressed that they have been disillusioned over how the NPA has relegated into banditry,” said AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo in a briefing Tuesday.
The all-out-war against the NPAs started last Feb. 4 shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the peace talks following a series of unprovoked attacks by the insurgents against military and civilians.
Some 13 NPA rebels, including two minors surrendered to the AFP in separate occasions in Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental.
Arevalo said these recent surrenders show the rampant recruitment of minors by the NPA. This clearly violates existing conventions on human rights and international humanitarian law.
This also manifest the hardships that these former NPA had to go through trying to evade the hands of the law.
“We welcome them back in the mainstream society and assist in their successful reintegration as productive members of their communities,” the AFP official stressed.
As this develops, Arevalo scored the NPAs for their continued attacks against civilian targets providing employment opportunities to poor Filipinos in the countryside.
“We have received reports that lawless NPA rebels attacked a site for a new hydroelectric power plant and a pineapple plantation in separate incidents on Saturday (February 25),” he added
According to witnesses, the rebels fired several warning shots and laid some improvised explosive devices inside the compound of Pulanai Hydroelectric Powerplant in Valencia City, Bukidnon.
Also, another NPA unit burned down two trucks and one trailer owned by the Davao Agri-Venture Corporation, a pineapple plantation in Quezon town, also in Bukidnon.
“The AFP condemns these new NPA attacks on private businesses that provide livelihood and promote development for our people and their community. The NPA’s violent nature and greed hampered economic growth and retarded the development potentials of our communities where our people use to belong to,” Arevalo said.
By attacking powerless businesses and individuals, the NPA has shown their diminishing capability and complete lack of interest in truly addressing the root causes of poverty, he added.
Ongoing operations against the rebels, numbering 43 overall, has so far killed 16 rebels, along with four wounded and 17 arrested.
Likewise, military units were able to recover 22 high-powered and low-powered firearms from the NPA rebels while 15 –including IEDs –were voluntarily surrendered.
On the government’s side, the AFP has recorded a total of 38 casualties, of which, eight were killed-in-action while 30 were wounded-in-action.