BUTUAN CITY – A top official of the Philippine Army has lauded the efforts of two battalions as well as the local government units (LGUs) in Caraga region for the surrender of 174 communist New People’s Army (NPA) members and supporters late last week.
In a press statement sent to the Philippine News Agency on Sunday (Aug. 23), Brig. Gen. Maurito L. Licudine, 402nd Infantry Brigade (402Bde) commander, said the accomplishments of the 23rd and 26th Infantry Battalions in the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur are remarkable and timely in view of the intensified campaign against the NPA that continues to weaken through the loss of support from communities.
“We are indeed pleased and optimistic about the turnout of surrenderers orchestrated by our battalions through our Community Support Program (CSP). These were not made possible without the convergence efforts and support of the LGUs, the Indigenous People (IP) communities and peace partner stakeholders under the Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC),” Licudine said.
In the same statement, Maj. Francisco P. Garello Jr., the civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 402Bde, said 174 NPA members and supporters pledged loyalty to the government in two separate mass surrender ceremonies held last August 20 in the towns of Carmen in Agusan del Norte and Talacogon in Agusan del Sur.
Of the 174 NPA members, a total of 150 surrendered to 23rd IB while 24 to the 26th IB, he added.
Garello said that since January 2020, prior to the two mass surrender ceremonies, the 402Bde neutralized 288 NPA personalities, 241 of whom surrendered, 27 were captured, and 20 were killed.
Licudine emphasized that neutralization of NPA leaders, members and supporters is significant as it complements the efforts of the RTF-ELCAC in Caraga Region and pave the way for them to provide interventions in order to address issues commonly exploited by the communist rebels especially in areas considered as geographical isolated, disadvantaged and conflict-affected areas (GIDCAs).
“While we are committed to relentlessly pursue the remaining communist NPA terrorists (CNTs) who opted not to lay down their arms, we can assure them that the government particularly your Army is here and ready to assist former rebels and their families to transition in becoming productive members of the society,” Licudine said.
He added that all stakeholders in the region have different roles in the government’s efforts to reintegrate the former members of the NPA into the society and help achieve just and lasting peace in every community. (PNA)