By Liza Agoot

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE. ”Michael” and “Gian”, a couple who established a family while on the mountains fighting against the government, recite their oath of allegiance administered by former PNP chief Camilo Cascolan in 2020 at Camp Dangwa, La Trinidad, Benguet. The two surrendered to be able to give their eight-month-old son a better future. (PNA file photo)

BAGUIO CITY – Continued engagement by the police with relatives of former rebels helped neutralize communist groups in the Cordillera region, authorities said.

Data from the Police Regional Office (Cordillera) show that about 103 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) were neutralized in 2023, up from 91 a year ago.

It shows that a rebel was captured in 2023, while six were arrested, five were killed, and 91 voluntarily surrendered to avail of the enhanced comprehensive local integration program (E-CLIP).

“(The) arrest of three top-ranking leaders somehow caused a vacuum in the leadership of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee, making it hard for them to sustain its force in the Cordillera region, particularly in their former mass bases.” Brig. Gen. David Peredo said in a report furnished to the Philippine News Agency on Friday.

Police data show that some of the arrested and captured NPA members last year were identified through tactical interrogations, custodial debriefing reports, and the exploitation of recovered documents while others are supporters of the CPP-NPA.

In a phone interview on Friday, Peredo traced the large number of surrenderers to the continuous engagement of police intelligence personnel with relatives of former rebels who have availed of the E-CLIP and the whole-of-nation approach in ending local armed conflict under Executive Order (EO) 70. 

“This implies that the government’s program has effectively enticed some (rebels) and supporters to denounce the CPP-NPA in exchange for a normal and peaceful life with their families,” he said.

Under E-CLIP, a surrenderer gets livelihood assistance, monetary aid, housing (if necessary), education and training (if needed and asked). 

A surrendered firearm is also compensated based on the caliber and the condition. 

“They do not just see the benefit but they feel the government’s assistance through the collaboration of several agencies that extend their services to those who opt to renew their allegiance to the government,” Peredo said. 

He said the Police Community Relations service of all Philippine National Police (PNP) units have also proven to contribute to the effort, with the continuing community engagements that relay the government’s services, as well as the commitment and interventions that are provided to the public. 

“With our people, especially those in the far-flung areas, seeing government reaching them they think otherwise about joining the terrorist groups,” he added. (PNA)