CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar – A couple who had been with the New People’s Army (NPA) for over a decade admitted Wednesday that the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach against insurgency has crippled the rebel group in Samar province.
Dino Bachicha, an NPA platoon leader who surrendered days ago, said the lack of support even from remote communities in Samar makes it harder to continue the armed rebellion.
“We noticed that since the formation of local task forces against NPA, our supporters have surrendered to the government and they stopped giving us food supplies, other resources, and information,” said 32-year-old Bachicha, a native of Can-avid, Eastern Samar.
“The past years have been boring since there was no information from our supporters about the location of government forces. We’re like lost and starved in the forest,” he added.
He joined the armed struggle when he was 16 through the persuasion of young combatants who happened to be his peers.
His common-law wife, Jennelyn Guarino, 32, a native of General MacArthur, Eastern Samar served as the NPA’s political instructor. Influenced by her rebel mother, she joined the NPA when she was 20.
“Recently, we noticed that we are becoming irrelevant even in far-flung communities. It’s hard to find recruits and fewer people listen to us in our assemblies,” Guarino said.
With their two children growing, the couple decided to surrender last week. They were among the 13 rebels presented Tuesday to members of the media by the Philippine Army.
The couple were former leaders of the NPA Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee, sub-regional committee, Bugsok Platoon operating in the mountains of Pinabacdao, Calbiga and Basey towns in Samar province.
The rebels handed over 10 M16 rifles, two .45-caliber handguns, and one Glock 17 pistol. They also revealed the location of banned anti-personnel mines, medical paraphernalia and several ammunitions.
Maj. Gen. Camilo Ligayo, Army’s 8th Infantry Division commander, said NPA members are dwindling in numbers and are under pressure with the loss of forces and mass bases.
“Their surrender only proves that they are fed up with the wrong ideologies of the NPA. Also, this indicates that their trust and support are now shifted from the NPA to the government. With this, rest assured that the Army will assist them to avail the benefits under Enhance Comprehensive and Local Integration Program,” Ligayo added.
The official said the formation of local task forces to end the local communist armed conflict (TF-ELCAC) provided non-military solutions to rebellions such as the construction of roads and schools, implementation of electricity and water supply, provision of livelihood assistance, delivery of health services, dialogues and education.
National and local TF-ELCAC are multi-agency body created under Executive Order No. 70 or the whole-of-nation approach signed by then President Rodrigo Duterte.
Activities include forums involving the youth, labor and indigenous peoples (IPs) sectors, provision of immediate cash assistance and livelihood interventions to former rebels, continuous consultations with families of combatants and the protection of industries from the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA infiltration. (PNA)