TACLOBAN CITY – At least 118 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and their staunch supporters formally yielded to the Philippine Army and the local government of Matuguinao, Samar, a military official said on Tuesday.
All, including nine village officials, joined the mass surrender ceremony at the town hall on Feb. 19, four days after the ultimatum set by Mayor Aran Boller.
Last January, the mayor gave NPA members and die-hard supporters until Feb. 15 to submit themselves to the authorities. Those who failed to surrender will be declared persona non-grata or face charges of supporting a terrorist group.
Some 353 town residents were identified by the local government and the military as NPA members and supporters.
Among them, only 195 have been subjected to tactical interrogation, said Lt. Col. Jasper Pecson, commander of the 19th Infantry Battalion.
Of the 195, only 118 attended the mass surrender ceremony.
“The campaign is still a success because those who surrendered are officials in their respective villages who have influences,” Pecson said in a phone interview.
Boller encouraged the surrenderers to totally reject the influences of the communist group.
“You need to have a peaceful life, free from worries and troubles. Focus on how you will improve the life of your family and the community,” he said.
The intensified campaign to encourage rebels to surrender is part of their effort to make Matuguinao a rebel-free town.
Boller added that of the 12 villages identified as NPA-influenced, five have been cleared last year. These are Deit, Libertad, Sta Cruz, San Isidro, and Nagpapacao villages.
Still affected by NPAs are Del Rosario, Ligaya, Carolina, San Roque, Inubod, Rizal, and Mahayag. NPA members operating in the area are from Northern Samar province.
The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Matuguinao is a fifth-class town in Samar province with a population of 7,288 people. The town is 105 kilometers from Tacloban City, the regional capital. (PNA)