By Priam Nepomuceno

ENCOUNTER. Soldiers recover various firearms from New People’s Army rebels following a clash in Barangay Malbang, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija on June 26, 2024. The military on Wednesday (July 3, 2024) renewed its call for remaining members of the communist movement to abandon the armed struggle and return to the fold of the law, following the death of 10 rebels in the clash. (Photo courtesy of 703rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday called on all remaining New People’s Army (NPA) members to surrender peacefully and return to the fold of society.

This comes in the wake of last week’s clash that resulted in the death of 10 communist rebels in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija.

“Hinihikayat namin kayong iwan ang armas at tahakin ang daan ng kapayapaan at kaunlaran. Ang gobyerno ay may mga programa para sa inyong muling pag-integrate sa lipunan, na magbibigay ng mas magandang kinabukasan para sa inyo at sa inyong mga pamilya (We are urging you to surrender your weapons and walk towards the path of peace and progress. The government has programs that will allow you to reintegrate yourself to mainstream society and provide a better future for you and your families),” AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said in a message to reporters.

Padilla was referring to programs such as the Local Peace Engagement (LPE) and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

The LPE is a collective effort of the security sector, local government units, and communities in conflict-affected areas to encourage NPA remnants to surrender, regain the human dignity stolen from them by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and live peacefully with their families.

The E-CLIP offers a multifaceted transformation program for capacity building and sustainable livelihood, not only cash incentives.

“Sa pagkakaisa, mapapalakas natin ang ating depensa at mapapangalagaan ang ating soberanya. Magtulungan tayo para sa isang mapayapa at ligtas na Pilipinas (With unity, we can strengthen our defenses and protect our sovereignty. We need to help one another to ensure a peaceful and safe Philippines),” she added.

The 10 rebels –seven men and three women– killed in the June 26 clash with forces from the Philippine Army’s 84th Infantry Battalion were members of the NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyon Gitnang Luzon.

At least 14 high-powered firearms were recovered at the encounter site in Pantabangan town’s Barangay Malbang. (PNA)