The child-warrior (third from left) and the NPA ‘amazon’ (female fighter) as they were presented to the media on Thursday (25 June 2020).

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal — Together with an NPA “amazon” or female combatant, another child warrior surrendered to the government as local peace negotiations with the provincial government of Occidental Mindoro got underway Thursday.

This development came after Gov Eduardo Gadiano was authorized by Occidental Mindoro’s Provincial Council to talk peace with the insurgents through Resolution 171 signed on June 16.

The military identified the 17-year-old minor as Ina Ronaw alias Angel who came out with a female terrorist whom they identified as Marisa Awi alias Maryan. Both of them are indigenous people belonging to the Buhid Tribe.

It was gathered the former rebels were members of the NPA’s Platun Serna which is under the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya MAV that is operating in the southern part of Mindoro Island.

Colonel Jose Augusto V Villareal, Commander of 203rd Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over Mindoro, said that the child warrior is an NPA regular who has been involved in armed skirmishes against his troops in the past.

Recruitment of minors condemned

He condemned the NPA terrorists’ recruitment of minors as a “blatant disregard of internationally accepted norms in warfighting” while describing the act as “a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law as well as of both written and unwritten rules between and among combatants.”

“The NPA’s recruitment of minors and exploitation of the IP community are evil practices that can never be justified ever,” stressed Col Villareal.

Gov Gadiano, the Provincial Chief Executive and Chairman of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or PTF ELCAC of Occidental Mindoro, reiterated his commitment “in answering the President’s call for a whole of nation approach to attain just and lasting peace in the whole province so that my people will be able to enjoy the lives that they truly deserve.”

“We will continue to pursue the path to peace regardless of the challenges, we will advocate for open communications between the government and the NPAs, and we will do everything within our authority to help those who are in need particularly the Mangyans and our youth,” said Gov Gadiano.

Speaking in Tagalog, the former rebels said that “the relentless military operations which cut off our logistics as well as the recent massive redeployment of forces in the island destroyed our will to fight and made us fear for our lives” made them decide to abandon their armed struggle.

Major General Arnulfo Marcelo B Burgos Jr, Commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division which has operational jurisdiction over Southern Tagalog, commended the Occidental Mindoro’s PTF-ELCAC for its “unwavering commitment to serve our people and defend them from the clutches of terrorism that has been hampering our growth and potentials as a nation.”

At the same time, Maj. Gen. Burgos expressed his disappointment to the NPAs’ “desperate act of recruiting IPs and minors thereby dragging them to harm’s way which is contrary to their propaganda lines of fighting for our people’s welfare.”

However, he expressed optimism that “more terrorists will surrender in the coming days because of the prevailing demoralization slicing across their ranks as well as the lingering fear in their minds brought about by the impending enactment into law of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.”

He punctuated his statement by reaffirming the infantry’s “commitment and dedication in performing our mandate as advocates of peace, servants of the people and defenders of Southern Tagalog.”

The new surrenderees will be enrolled to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP which provides benefits of up to P700,000 worth of grants and reintegration packages. (PNA)