The Balik-Loob program actors in Masbate, technically members of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, are supported by their national and regional counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, in a show of solidarity, welcoming 27 surrenderees.

The inevitable is starting to roll out!

Reports coming out of Camp Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur (September 22) indicate 26 members of the New Peoples’ Army and one supporter surrendered to the government in Masbate province.

The group of 27 denounced communist terrorism in front of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) members and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) committee.

ECLIP is more popularly known as the Balik-Loob Program of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, a whole-nation approach with 27 national government agencies working hand-in-hand with local government units in pursuance of localized peace talks with armed insurgencies.

The surrenderees are composed of 15 regular communist NPA terrorists, 9 were Militiang Bayan (MB), two were part of Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL) and 1 supporter.

Surrendered were four high powered firearms and 28 low powered firearms.

E-CLIP is now fast-tracking the payment of firearms renumeration and expediting the delivery of benefits intended for the now considered former rebels (FRs).

Gov. Antonio Kho, Chairman of PTF-ELCAC recognized the Army and the PNP especially the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB) under LTC Siegfried Felipe Awichen, which covers the entire province of Masbate for their consistent performance resulting in the continuous apprehension of CTG elements.

“This is the only catalyst or the ultimate solution for the everlasting peace not only in the province but in the entire country,” Gov. Kho said.

 “Jimmy”, a regular CTG member who was earlier captured in one of the armed encounters in Masbate, shared his experience thanking the security forces and the government for giving him another chance to be reconciled to the community and make a new beginning.

“Ako po ay isang captured o huli ng mga militar. Pero doon ko po nakita ang pagpapahalaga sa bayan na hindi pala solusyon ang giyera kundi po sa isang magandang usapan,” Jimmy said.

Meanwhile, MGen Henry A. Robinson Jr PA, Commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) Bicolandia congratulated the PTF-ELCAC for this large haul stressing that indeed, pure combat solutions will not solve the armed struggle.

“Sa mga kasama natin dito ngayon, nagpapasalamat ako at kayo ay nagbalik-loob na sa gobyerno at nagdesisyong itakwil ang maling ideolohiya na itinuro sa inyo. Ngayong andito na kayo na nagbabalik-loob, bukas na ang iba’t-ibang tulong, kaalaman, at kasanayan na inyong magagamit sa pagbabagong buhay,” he said.

Robinson added:

The General also underscored that this development is the result of decisive joint operations of the Army and PNP, effective implementation of the Modified Community Support Program as well as the efforts of PTF-ELCAC enhanced by the cooperation of the Masbateños to the anti-insurgency campaigns of the government.

Gracing the occasion was LtGen Antonio G. Parlade Jr., commander of Southern Luzon Command and Police BGen Bartolome Bustamante, regional director of Police Regional Office V.

In his message, the Lt Gen emphasized that with consistent convergence of efforts, insurgency can be resolved in one-year time and highlighted how serious the government is in helping the former rebels to live a better life.

“Hindi po pwede ‘yong ‘tokenism’. Pag sinabi nating programa ng gobyerno, totoo yan at may kasunod yan. Hindi pwedeng one-time bigtime. Hindi po pwede ‘yong ganun. Wala pong iwanan,” Parlade added.

PBGEN Bustamante on the other hand seconded MGen. Robinson by saying, “We recognize that the pursuit of peace and to a larger scope the creation of a better society can only be achieved when all relevant sectors come together to pool their resources into one great effort.”

The Balik-Loob Program is proving yet another winning streak for the law enforcement agencies.

Just last weekend, an -14 rifle and two anti-personnel mines were captured in the recent armed encounter between government troops and communist terrorists in Bulan, Sorsogon.

The encounter is a result of strong cooperation of the residents of Barangay R. Gerona in the said town, as well as civilian informants who helped the joint elements of 31st Infantry Battalion, 903rd Infantry Brigade and PNP to track down the members of the New Peoples’ army who were spotted in the area.

After a brief gunfight, an undetermined number of terrorists hurriedly escaped leaving the firearm and explosives as well as their personal belongings behind.

The story just keeps repeating itself leading Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay to announce that “with mounting surrenders, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and their allies are on the decline.

“All figures are on the decline and in fact, many of them have surrendered. For this year alone, there are more than 1,000 (communist terrorists) who have surrendered with almost 800 firearms from the side of the CPP-NPA and many are still sending surrender feelers,” Gapay said.

With these surrenders, Gapay said the NPA, armed component of the CPP, has “significantly degraded” giving the AFP time to focus on the non-military problems of the communist insurgency.

Gapay was referring to poverty and injustice used by the communist terrorists in furthering their propaganda and recruiting new members, especially among the Indigenous Peoples communities.

Meanwhile, PNP chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan said the PNP and the AFP will be forging several partnerships to come up with core innovations that would result in zero insurgencies.

“We will be doing a lot of initiatives. We will be seeing us together with the AFP more often. We will be very visible together and soon enough, we will be able to come up with joint exercises like simulation exercises that we have to do even the legal and offensive stance,” he said.

Finally, the security and law enforcement agencies of the absolute sovereigns who are the peace-loving and productive citizens of the Republic, have put their acts together.

Because of their humiliating defeats in the battlefront, the terrorists have shifted its strategy.

What was its armed component being supported politically and financially by its legitimated fronts in open society, to do protracted struggle for the violent overthrow of the present dispensation, morphs to its reverse.

The armed component provides the optics and the diversion so that its legitimated fronts move to metastasize its foothold of the government through strategic appointments and populating the electoral process.

Applying the Saul Alinsky dynamics to the Philippine situation has however failed.  

It has been handicapped with a heavy load – The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

With the passing of the Anti-Terror Act (ATA), the terrorists have lost the ambivalent provisions in Philippine laws that have served as its armor against criminal prosecution in the name of human rights.

While no diminution of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution has happened even with the ATA, provisions about aiding and abetting the terrorists have been defined.

What was cloaked with ambivalence yet, in much lawfare and propaganda, has now been marked in stone as unequivocal and carries stiff penalties.

This did not happen overnight. The continuous verbiage and impunity of the so-called CPP-NPA “legal” fronts have turned 180 degrees, mainly because of two factors:

First, in their desperation to take over “territory” they ventured deep into the enclosures of the indigenous peoples. In the beginning the siren song of their attacks on the shortcomings of the government on one hand and their enticing promise of better life made a crucial penetration. But once inside ancestral domains, they took away the lumads freedom, provisions, livelihood, women and even schools.

The caper had to end, however, when they exposed their true intentions as they replaced generations of culture with their godless ideology. As they trained the children of the lumads to go against their elders, even at some point kill them, the shit hit the fan, so to speak.

Second, in the cities parents of recruits by the terrorist fronts, proud to call themselves Makabayan, started to miss their children who started displaying behavioral patterns as slowly they learn to sleep with the enemies of the state, eventually turning them into cadres of the New Peoples Army.

As the casualty rate started to mount, of ordinary college students-turned-activists-bearing arms and eventually becoming child warriors and terrorists themselves, parents erstwhile in fear of reprisal mustered overwhelming courage to turn the tables on those who have taken their children as hostage to a twisted system.

At the end of the day, the law enforcers’ carrot of opening the doors of society once again have become the citizen’s stick in flushing its communities of these criminals.

What has now become vogue is rendering these dregs of society as persona-non-grata to villages by the sheer initiative not by government but by the citizens themselves.

And if avoidance and prohibition does not work, ordinary citizens use their cellphones to tell law enforcement agencies on where the lairs of these terrorist are.

It might be a small patriotic gesture, but this citizen participation has led to less and less soldiers and policemen put on harm’s way, and more and more terrorists killed if they do not surrender. As we said it in a previous column – Join or die!

President Duterte joins Masbate Gov. Antonio Kho during the latter’s  birthday celebration at the Kalasangan Farm in Cataingan, Masbate

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