Asuncion, DDN – Two more members of the same New People’s Army’s Sub-Regional Committee 4 (SRC 4), Southern Mindanao Regional Command voluntarily turned themselves over to the Balik-Loob Center of the 60th Infantry Battalion at its Charlie Company Command Post in Laak on Tuesday.
One of the two surrenderees, alias Annie, is only 17 years old, a minor, recruited by alias Coco, the Commanding Officer of the NPA’s DGF 3 under SRC 4. According to Annie, Coco’s group has been recruiting members of their Dibabawon tribe (indigenous peoples) in Brgy. Sta. Emelia, Veruela, Agusan del Sur last December 2017 when they chanced upon her. Annie said she only joined the group out of curiosity and because Coco promised she can leave the group after a month. Coco took Annie without even asking permission from her parents.
Annie, however, was never allowed to go back home. She said Coco and her other comrades warned her that the military and the police already knew her and is waiting to capture or kill her anytime. She stayed with the group for almost 10 months as a platoon medic and was even involved in an armed encounter in February.
Meanwhile, alias Raymond, now 19 years old and recruited when he was only 17, says that he has attempted to surrender to the authorities five times before his most recent and only successful attempt this week with Annie. Raymond was also a medic of DGF3 and was wounded in the same armed encounter in February. Just like Annie, Raymond says he joined the group out of curiosity. He, however, had since wanted to leave the group after experiencing the hardship in their operations.
Both curious youngsters, Annie and Raymond were promised “adventure and freedom” when they joined the NPA. But, as both recollects, they only experienced hunger and illness. Annie and Raymond both say they want nothing but to go back to their parents and return to their normal lives.
Annie was brought to the local social welfare and development office for psychological debriefing and custody.
60IB Commander, Lt. Col. Gilbert Ombos, expresses strong condemnation of the NPA’s exploitation of vulnerable sectors such as the youth and indigenous peoples. “This is the very reason [why] we continue immersing in communities, facilitating dialogues and encouraging them to organize themselves so they may become less, if not totally, vulnerable to the deceptive ploys of the NPA. No one—not our indigenous peoples and especially not our children—should be forced to leave their homes and be caught in the middle of a war these communist-terrorists insists of waging,” Ombos adds.
Upon orders by 1001st Infantry Brigade Commander, Col. Gilbert Saret, 60IB recently opened its Balik-Loob Centers in selected sites within its Area of Operations to accommodate and assist members and supporters of the CPP-NPA-NDF who wants to go back to the folds of the law. Part of the center’s thrust is to aid surrenderees in claiming benefits under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
“Annie and Raymund’s surrender and eventual enrollment to government’s E-CLIP is a commitment of 10ID in pursuit of peace and protection of the people specially the youth,” Major General Noel S Clement, Commander 10ID said as he commend troops’ accomplishment.