By JOEY NACALABAN and NITZ ARANCON
CAMP Alagar yesterday presented three masked men and then alleged that they were New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who supposedly surrendered to the government here on separate occasions early this week.
The police’s narratives and allegations were unchallenged like reporters were expected to just take their word for it. Not once were the alleged rebels’ faces shown during a news conference called by Brig. Gen. Rafael Santiago, police director for northern Mindanao. Neither did the police allow reporters to interview the alleged rebels who were made to stand behind Santiago and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional director Arnel Agabe Jr..
At presstime, there is no way to independently validate the police’s claims.
According to Santiago, the three were rebels who operated in the Talakag, Bukidnon area. Two of them supposedly surrendered in the outlying barangay of Pigsag-an Sunday while another yielded to a Camp Alagar official Tuesday.
Santiago said one of the masked men served as a rally organizer of the Maoist rebel group and as a “manager” of the group Anakpawis.
Anakpawis is a party-list organization that has been advocating pro-labor and pro-peasant causes like the P125 across-the-board wage increase for workers and the call for genuine agrarian reform.
It has held party-list seats in the Lower House since 2004, and has been represented by the likes of Crispin Beltran, Rafael Mariano, Joel Manglungsod, Fernando Hicap, Ariel Casilao, and Rafael Mariano who subsequently served as President Duterte’s agrarian reform secretary.
The alleged former Anakpawis “manager” handed himself over to Lt. Col. Roland Batolan, head of Camp Alagar’s regional operations management division Tuesday, said Santiago.
“He started his role as organizer in 2007, during the national and local elections, in the area of Bukidnon, until he laid low in 2018,” Santiago said.
He said the rallies the alleged Anakpawis “manager” organized were meant to discredit the government.
According to Santiago, two of the masked men are father and son, and one served as a sniper.
Santiago said the masked men used to be members of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 12 and the Militia ng Bayan. Except for one, they allegedly joined the NPA in 2015 or four years ago.
Another allegedly went to become a full-time rebel in 2017 after he supposedly suffered from an injustice.
“He was nearly killed by the people who wanted to grab a parcel of land that he cultivated. He was accused of killing someone when he never did it,” Santiago said.
Santiago said the masked men also surrendered a caliber .45 pistol, a Garand rifle and ammunition.
According to Santiago, the surrender was a result of over a month of negotiations by the City Mobile Force Company of Cagayan de Oro City Police Office under Maj. Alex Sonido.
Agabe, DILG director for northern Mindanao, said the masked men would be enrolled in the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip) so they could receive aid like other surrenderers who returned to the mainstream of society.
Santiago said the masked men had been convinced into joining the NPA through “lies” and “deception.” He said the NPA capitalized on and exploited the government’s failures to make them become rebels.
Santiago said the NPA failed to fulfil its promise to give the three hooded men huge salaries and help their families, prompting them to surrender.
Police said the alleged surrenderers have homicide and murder cases in court. Santiago said that despite the surrender, they would need to face the courts.
“This development only proves that the [Police Regional Office 10] is doing well in its job to serve and to protect the community,” Santiago said.
Through various community works, he said, the police have been working to “win the hearts and minds of the people [by] bridging the gap between the PNP and [the] community,” he said.