By Sarwell Meniano

ABANDONED. Firearms of the New People’s ARmy unearthed by soldiers in upland Mabini village in Basey, Samar, on Monday (January 15, 2024). The Philippine Army found these firearms through information from a rebel leader who yielded to authorities last month. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – Soldiers discovered on Monday an arms cache containing high-powered firearms in the upland Mabini village in Basey, Samar, through information from a rebel leader who yielded to authorities last month.

Brig. Gen. Noel A. Vestuir, commander of the Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade, said in a phone interview that troopers from the 63rd Infantry Battalion unearthed the cache with four AK47 assault rifles, five upper receivers of M16 rifles with bolt assembly, five long magazines of AK47, and two disc-type magazines of AK47 rifles.

Acting on a tip from a former high-ranking NPA leader, soldiers found the location of the buried arms cache on the outskirts of upland Mabini village. These firearms belonged to Bugsok platoon, a sub-regional committee of the NPA Eastern Visayas regional party committee.

“The NPA abandoned these firearms since no one will carry them because there are only a few of them. Many have already surrendered, and they are running out of bullets,” Vestuir told the Philippine News Agency in a phone interview.

Mabini village has been cleared from NPA threats, but rebels have been coming back as part of their recovery attempts, according to Vestuir.

The said discovery, according to the official, is a result of the continuous cooperation of a former high-ranking leader of the NPA who surrendered to the government troops in December 2023 through the Friends Rescued Engagement through their Families (FReE Families) program of the local government and the military.

Under this initiative, family members of active NPA members and supporters have been capacitated to negotiate for the peaceful surrender of their loved ones and family members with active support from third-party peace advocates, former rebels, local government units, non-government organizations, religious sectors, and other key actors.

The army is counting on regular dialogues between local authorities and family members of active NPA to encourage more rebels to surrender and to recover more firearms in Samar provinces. (PNA)