CATARMAN, Northern Samar – Three alleged members of the New People’s Army(NPA) surrendered before the military, this province, but human rights group claimed they were farmers and abducted by the military.
The three alleged former rebel members who surrendered were identified as Richard Avino, Arnel Aquino, and Tinny Gerbon. They were said to be members of the special partisan unit of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Brigadier General Mario Lacurom, commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade, based this town, told Leyte Samar Daily Express (LSDE) that the three men surrendered to the officers of the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Opong, Catubig on Friday (November 24).
They also turned over to the military three firearms that included two caliber .45 pistols and a .38 caliber revolver, Lacurom said.
The three will be enrolled under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the national government giving them legal and livelihood assistance and other social benefits.
They are also expected to receive similar benefits and cash rewards for the firearms that they surrendered under the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) of the provincial government.
Each of the three reported former rebels are to receive P100,000, Lacurom said.
But the Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas, based this town, however, claimed that the three were not rebel members and were just farmers.
Sargie Macallan, provincial chairman of the Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas, said that they would ask before the court for it to issue a writ of habeas corpus for the immediate release of the three.
“They are not NPA members as claimed by the military but are farmers who were forcibly abducted as they were tilling their lands as reported by their families to us,” Macallan said.
But according to Lieutenant Colonel Noli Lapizar, commanding officer of the 20IB, the surrender of three were “legitimate”.
“It was a legitimate combat operation that our troop conducted in Sitio Canunghan, Barangay Osmena (Palapag town) where the three surrendered to our men,” Lapizar said.
The three are now in the custody of the 20IB based in Catubig together with their wives and children.
“Sumama yung family nila kasi natatakot daw at hinahabol sila ng mga NPA. They are well taken care of; may kanya-kanya silang kwarto,” Lapizar said.
On Sunday (Nov.26), three persons who introduced themselves as “parents” of Avina, Gerbon, and Aquino went to the Palapag Police station to report about the alleged abduction of their sons by the military.
Chief Inspector Alex Mendez, chief of police in Palapag, told LSDE that the parents were accompanied by a member of the Katungod-SB.