MANILA For the first time, three former rebels of the New People's Army (NPA) who recently surrendered confirmed that the civic action program launched by the military has been very effective in the fight against insurgency.
Keep it up, sustain your so-called Bayanihan civic action program because it is hurting the NPA, said Ka Jelly (true name withheld for security reasons) in an exclusive interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday.
Ka Jelly had been with the NPA for almost two decades before he and two of his comrades decided to surrender last May 18 to Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commanding general of the Joint Task Force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (JTF/AFP), which secures Metro Manila.
Arrojado is a veteran military strategist in the AFP's war on terror in Mindanao, particularly against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan, before he was assigned to his current position.
Ka Jelly, whose testimony was corroborated by his comrades, Ka Kem and Ka Dodong, said they decided to surrender after realizing that they were fighting fellow Filipinos.
During the interview, Ka Jelly said he considers the AFP's civic action program a success because it has been benefiting the people down to the grass root level, since the program includes free medical-dental treatment, food, shelter and other civic actions.
That is why I urge the AFP to intensify this Bayanihan civic action program because the NPA is having a hard time countering this humanitarian effort, he said. There is no way to put down a good program that benefits the people.
As a former rebel, Ka Jelly manifested how the communist movement is having a difficult time countering the civic action program undertaken by the AFP through the years that he said should be sustained.
Ka Jelly said he was recruited by the NPA in Compostela Valley in Davao del Sur in 1999 when he was only 17 years old.
Actually, I joined the NPA just for fun and adventure and my desire to own a gun, he said, noting that as a rebel, he participated 15 times in raids of military units in Pantukan, Compostela Valley.
During the raid of an army detachment in 2003, four soldiers were killed and four others (were) wounded during the hour-long of fighting, he added.
At the same time, Ka Jelly and his two comrades said that while they hail from Compostela Valley, they were ordered by the Central Committee to come to Luzon to reinforce the depleting NPA fighters in the area in April 2017.
We travelled for three days and two nights by land on board three vans from Davao to Southern Luzon. There were no checkpoints along the route, and besides, we did not bring our firearms, he said.
They were transferred to other vehicles upon arrival in Lucena City and were brought to Quirino, Isabela where they were briefed about their mission as reinforcement coming from Mindanao.
He identified two NPA rebels who met them in Lucena only as Ka Anak and Ka Sera.
During the series of lectures, he counted 210 NPA comrades, 40 of them non-combatants.
It was there that they were told by the sub-region finance committee that the NPA has been experiencing lack of funds, despite the collection of revolutionary taxes.
After staying several months in Isabela, Ka Jelly thought of surrendering to the government, but the question was how, since the NPA would not allow it.
He hatched a plan by making an excuse that he was to meet a relative in Montalban, Rizal to borrow some money. His request was granted, together with Ka Kem.
However, while on their way to Montalban, the NPA leadership in Isabela suspected something fishy, so Ka Dodong was asked to go after Ka Jowell and Ka Kem to make sure they return to Isabela.
But instead of convincing the duo, Ka Dodong was the one convinced to go with them to Montalban.
It was during this critical moment that we prayed to God for our safety, Ka Jelly said.
In fact, I continued to pray even during my stint with the NPA for almost 20 years, he said, because I always believe in God Almighty. And God heard my prayers.
Ka Dodong and Ka Kem also said they did not stop praying while with the rebel movement. The three are members of the Iglesia ni Cristo.
Shortly after reaching Montalban, they sent feelers to the National Intelligence Service Agency (NICA) in Metro Manila that they would like to surrender.
NICA immediately contacted Gen. Arrojado to fetch them.
Without delay, Arrojado sent a team to Montalban to pick up Ka Jelly, Ka Kem and Ka Dodong.
They were brought to Arrojado's office in Camp Aguinaldo where they were asked if they had firearms with them.
They answered yes, but they were buried underground, said Arrojado, who sent a team of soldiers from the JTF/AFP to go to Isabela to recover the weapons.
He contacted Maj. Gen. Perfecto Rimando, commanding general of the 5th Infantry Division, and Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro, commander of the 502nd Brigade of the Philippine Army, based in Echague, Isabela to coordinate with the recovery of the buried firearms.
Arrojado said the troops from JTF, 5th Infantry Division, and 502nd Brigade retrieved five M-16 assault rifles, two M-14 rifles, and one Baby Armalite M653 rifle buried in Sitio Pulang Lupa, Barangay Disimungal, Nagtipunan, Quirino, last Saturday.
The weapons were brought to the JTF headquarters last Saturday.
Ka Jelly, Ka Kem and Ka Dodong took their oath of allegiance before Arrojado.
Their papers are now being processed.
Ka Jelly said he and his two comrades would be happy to see President Rodrigo R. Duterte if given the opportunity to see the commander-in-chief.
Arrojado said the successful mission was a joint effort by the JTF/AFP/PNP/NICA under the Enhanced Comprehensive Integration Program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to eradicate the long-drawn communist insurgency in the country.
He also expressed hope that other NPA rebels would surrender so that the country would attain lasting peace sooner than later. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency