Hearing the loud explosions from mortar fire and anti-tank weapons, four NPA rebels surfaced to lay down their arms in the hinterland village of Masiag in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat at 7:30am on December 23.
Ka ‘Carding’, the communist group’s political instructor and platoon medic serving the defunct Platoon Turo-turo, handed over his M1 Garand Rifle. He was accompanied by three of his men who brought with them a KG9 Submachine Gun, two revolvers, a 9mm Pistol, and three MK2 fragmentation grenades.
“We were very afraid to die in battles that we could not win. We also wanted to spend Christmas with our family,” said Ka Carding in Ilonggo dialect.
Carding and his men were among the remnants of the communist terrorist group that established the Daguma Sub-Region Party Committee about two years ago. The series of surrender of his comrades led to the gradual collapse of the communist terrorist movement in Bagumbayan and Senator Ninoy Aquino.
“We have lost the support of the people when the 33rd Infantry Battalion took over to assist the local government here. Our cadres retreated to adjacent towns, leaving us in hiding in the forest,” said Carding, a two year veteran of the communist ‘protracted war’ in the countryside.
Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, the commanding officer of the Army’s 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion, personally received the former rebels at his camp in President Quirino town.
“I welcome you all with open arms. Let us remember that Christmas is about forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope,” said Cabunoc who received the former rebels from Captain Winston Cacatian, the mediator.
At about 11:30am, Colonel Robert Dauz, the commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, personally received the former communist rebels at the brigade’s headquarters in Tacurong City.
“I am very glad that you are finally enlightened about the government’s genuine care for the Lumads (indigenous people). We will help you return to your communities so that you can rebuild your lives,” said Dauz.
As of December 23, a total of 203 former NPA rebels had surrendered to the 33rd Infantry Battalion since the unit took over responsibility of the communist insurgency in Sultan Kudarat in March 2017. Sixty-five of the former rebels had been granted social benefits through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
“The successive capitulations only prove that our troops have been making headway in the focused military operations to disarm and pressure the communist terrorists in the joint area of operations, and, with our success in our inclusive campaign to convince the rest of the rebels to surrender to authorities, we anticipate that local officials and the people of Mindanao, who are behind our continuing feat, will continue to support us as we welcome more returnees and eliminate terrorism in this part of the country,” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.