Lt. Col. Don Templonuevo, Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, said NPA surrenderer Almadin dela Torre, who has aliases of Ka Ariel and Ka Nike, claimed he was "tired of fighting and hiding".
The last straw for dela Torre, he said, was when his comrades abandoned him during an encounter Wednesday evening when the rebels attacked government troops in Barangay Balagon, Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Templonuevo said dela Torre surrendered to the 44IB troops on Friday in the same village.
Dela Torre was 16-years-old when he was recruited in 2016 by the members of the Guerilla Front–Feleciano A of the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC), the military official said.
Earlier, he said the troops were resting in Barangay Balagon after conducting visitation and information dissemination on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in far-flung areas when the NPA attacked them, triggering a 20-minute firefight.
The troops repelled the attackers and on the next day recovered the remains of a slain NPA rebels in the area.
“His (dela Torre) surrender and statements are proof that the NPA is continuously violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which prohibits the recruitment and use of children in hostilities,” Templonuevo said.
Dela Torre turned over one M16A1 rifle with four magazines and 80 rounds of live ammunition to the military.
Col. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade, said the rebel's surrender was "a manifestation that the convergence efforts of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) prior to the declaration of ceasefire gained promising and positive results."
Nicolas said based on interviews with dela Torre, the strength of the NPA in Zamboanga Sibugay has been continuously dwindling after losing a huge number of followers in the series of clashes with the government forces.
Nicolas said the NPA surrenderer has also expressed discontentment on the manner their leaders were running the organization.
Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, said they will facilitate the dela Torre's enrolment to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) and assist him in his return to the mainstream society.
Ponio said dela Torre will receive benefits such as immediate cash assistance, livelihood assistance, a remuneration for the surrendered firearm and other aids coming from the different national government agencies.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)
By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.