Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. has urged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to surrender to the government, or face consequences of their action.
Teodoro, who graced the 3rd quarter Cordillera Peace and Order Council meeting on July 14 at the Baguio Convention and Cultural Center, lauded the accomplishments of the government forces, who presented two rebel returnees and confiscated high-powered firearms during the RPOC meeting.
M/Gen. Audrey Pasia, commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, presented alias Ronron from Boliney, Abra, who was a former member the Agustin Begnalen Command; and alias Lipat from Balbalan, Kalinga, a former member of the Lejo Cawilan Command, both of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee.
Around 30 high-powered firearms were surrendered by former rebels, including improvised explosives, ammunition, and documents bearing notes from the field.
The two former rebels took their oath of allegiance to the Philippine flag and vowed to help in convincing other rebels to return to the folds of the law.
Teodoro said the surrender of the former rebels is a victory on the government’s part, showing its sincerity in helping the rebel returnees to get back to their families and start anew.
Pasia, meanwhile, asked for help from the local governments and the public in putting social pressure for the rebels to surrender, as the military conducts combat pressure until they have no choice but to surrender.
Teodoro has acknowledged that communities suffer every time there is a clash between the state forces and the rebels.
But he said the CPP-NPA remains an internal threat and that the government’s approach has always been to localize the peace process in dealing with the underground movement.
At present, the operations by government forces are coordinated, not only with the local officials but also with the Office of the Civil Defense.
Teodoro also refused to accept that the blame would be on the State forces every time there is a displacement of communities, adding the rebels have no business existing in an area in the first place.
He cited the harm and danger the improvised explosives, which are not allowed to be used anywhere, could do to the community every time the rebels would use them against the State forces.
“The cause the NPA’s are fighting for is not a lost cause because there was never a cause in the first place,” he said.
The AFP and the PNP have long designated the CPP-NPA as terrorists, and this move was recently backed by Resolution 41 signed on June 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) where it designated four Cordilleran activists as terrorists.
Teodoro has declined to comment on the ATC resolution, stating he was not familiar yet with the resolution and the several cases filed by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance leadership against the government for continuous red-tagging and vilification of Cordilleran activists. – Ofelia C. Empian