PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, July 28 — A New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla fighter voluntarily surrendered late Thursday afternoon here amidst continuing clashes between his former comrades and military forces in the borderlines of two towns in southern Palawan.
Rico Libutan, 30, who goes by the aliases “Ka Lovely, Ka Cedric, and Ka Rocky,” voluntarily surrendered to the management of DWAR 103.9 FM in Puerto Princesa.
In a radio interview, which was live-streamed in social media, the former NPA insurgent said he surrendered because he wanted to clean his name after discovering it is in the military’s “order of battle.”
“I had already left the revolutionary movement for quite some time now. I surrendered as I want to clear my name because I was told it’s in the military’s order of battle. Without surrendering, I still feel I am not free to roam around; I constantly worry about my safety,” Libutan said.
He said his surrender is not a secret to the rebel movement Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC) in Palawan. In fact, he asked for his comrades’ permission, and all they allegedly told him was to be careful of his security, and not to sell them out to the military.
“They told me not to betray them when I surrender, and to be careful of my security if I want to clear my name,” he stated.
The “order of battle” in military refers to the tiered organization, command structure, strength, disposition of members, and equipment of units and formations of the enemies.
Libutan narrated to the radio station’s Public Agenda program that he was assigned to the medical unit of the BVC after training in northern Palawan on acupuncture, basic life support, and other first aid cares.
His account claimed that the NPAs in their hidden campgrounds have complete emergency medical contrivances, including dextrose supplies, and scalpels used to operate on comrades who are wounded.
“I am part of the medical… the group that dispenses first aid at combat sites,” he said.
Libutan said he became a member of the NPA’s BVC on October 8, 2013 without the knowledge of his family at Sitio Imulnod, Barangay Pulot Shore, Sofronio Española.
According to Paglumotan, Libutan called their radio station and expressed intention to surrender. They then immediately facilitated this by personally fetching him in Sofronio Española.
The former NPA member’s voluntary surrender was coordinated with the WESCOM through Captain Cherryl Tindog, its spokesperson.
Tindog assured Libutan that as soon as he is in their care, the local government’s rebel returnee integration program will be put to work to help him.
“We will ensure his safety here at the WESCOM, and the local integration program will be activated as soon as possible to help him,” Tindog stated.
Related to this, the WESCOM came out with a statement in its social media account Thursday morning that set straight claims of the NPA’s Bienvenido Vallever Command that military forces are violating human rights in Bataraza.
The statement reads: “In every combat operation, the Western Command and the whole of the AFP observes (sic) the primacy of human rights. The allegations of the communist terrorists on bombing of the houses of the indigenous people while focused military operations are on going (sic) in Bataraza, Palawan are obviously desperate lies and are meant to discredit the government forces who are relentlessly pursuing them out of their hideouts.”
It further said: “The Western Command, however, believes that our people are wise enough to see from the propaganda they issued that they are really the ones who are detrimental to peace and progress. Meanwhile, the focused military operations of Team Western Command shall continue.”
Libutan’s arrest came after a suspected NPA couple was arrested early in the week in Araceli, northern Palawan by the municipal police.
Husband and wife Carlito and Elizabeth Labajo were arrested after residents of Barangay Tinintinan reported that they, and two others, were seen spying on the municipal police station in Araceli and the house of Mayor Noel Beronio.