GENERAL SK PENDATUN, Maguindanao—The sight of the installed solar-powered lamps in his village had convinced a child warrior to surface and lay down his weapon late afternoon on Saturday (January 26).
‘Tigre’, 15, remained hiding in the past two weeks despite the surrender of his relatives after years of eluding the security forces who were sent to arrest them. He said that the lights coming from the solar lamp posts convinced him to follow the path towards peace.
“Bearing solar-powered flash lights and lamp posts, soldiers came to the village of my relatives to help them. I realized that they were not interested in killing us all,” said Tigre in Maguindanaon dialect.
The surrender of Tigre happened at least an hour after soldiers of the 33rd Infantry Battalion installed solar lights in Pedtad village, a fishing village near the Liguasan Marsh.
Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, the 33IB Commanding Officer, personally received the Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher that was handed over by Tigre in Makainis village here.
“You have made the right decision in laying down your weapon. There is no more reason to fight after the overwhelming victory of the Bangsamoro Organic Law ‘Yes’ vote,” said Lieutenant Colonel Cabunoc.
Tigre belongs to the BIFF faction of Commander Mayo Gantong Bansil, the leader of the outlawed armed group who had been involved in atrocities against government troops in the past five years.
Lieutenant Colonel Cabunoc said that more and more members of the ‘peace spoilers’ have decided to cooperate with the government.
“The influx of surrenderors reflects the high level of trust that we gained in Central Mindanao. With popular support, we will always prevail against any adversary,” added Lieutenant Colonel Cabunoc.
Major General Cirilito Sobejana, the Joint Task Force Central Commander, has directed the subordinate commanders to sustain the gains on the ground.
“We must endeavor to reduce the armed groups through negotiations and focused military operations. This is our platform in turning the Liguasan Marsh from ‘Terrorism to Tourism’ and from a ‘battlefield to an oilfield’ area,” said Major General Sobejana, a Medal for Valor awardee.
The 33rd Infantry Battalion has succeeded in luring combatants to go back to the folds of the law in the past two years. Known as the Makabayan peacemakers, the soldiers of the 33IB had facilitated the surrender of 37 BIFF members, 205 communist rebels, and 41 drug syndicate members.
“We are gladdened by the spate of surrenders in Central Mindanao, which signifies a breakthrough in our peace campaign in Central Mindanao. We will ensure our efforts will be maintained to crumble terrorist groups in the area,” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.