GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 16 January) – An alleged ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) and his wife surrendered to government troops based in South Cotabato province on Monday after a series of negotiations.
Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander, commanding officer of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB), said Tuesday NPA-Far South Mindanao or Valentin Palamine Command spokesperson Noel Legaspi alias Ka Efren and wife Wendy decided to yield after serving the rebel movement for around 26 years.
He said the surrender was facilitated by the 27IB based in Tupi town in South Cotabato in coordination with provincial officials led by Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes.
“This is the result of continuing collaborative efforts aimed at convincing more NPA rebels in the area to surrender and return to the folds of the law,” he said in a radio interview.
Leander said Legaspi is considered as among the top leaders of the NPA-Far South Mindanao, which operates in parts of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Davao del Sur provinces.
Legaspi was a long-time spokesperson of the group and had granted media interviews in the past regarding NPA activities in the area.
His wife, Ka Wendy, had served in the NPA unit’s medical staff.
Citing talks with Legaspi, the Army official said the latter and his wife decided to surrender as they could no longer endure the difficult situation in the mountains.
“They wanted to lead normal lives and end the long years of hiding from authorities,” Leander said.
South Cotabato board member Agustin Dema-ala said they will continue with their efforts to convince more NPA rebels to surrender.
He said they expect that more rebels will yield and lay down their firearms in the coming days as a result of such development.
In Sultan Kudarat province, over 100 alleged NPA rebels already surrendered since last year through the provincial government led by Gov. Datu Pax Mangudadatu.
Dema-ala assured that surrenderers will get various assistance through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP.
The program, which started in 2014, aims to facilitate the mainstreaming of former NPA rebels as productive citizens; enhance capacities of LGUs and national government agencies in the implementation and sustainability of the CLIP; and compensate and remunerate all surrendered firearms, including those coming from the NPA. (MindaNews)