B/General Noel Vestuir

TACLOBAN CITY– A senior military official in Eastern Visayas disclosed that 31 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and armed supporters have voluntarily surrendered under the initiatives of the local government units (LGUs).

Brigadier General Noel Vestuir, the brigade commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Ormoc City, said that the ‘localized peace engagements’ being enforced by the LGUs are a big help to them as they aim to end the region’s insurgency problem.

Earlier, Major Gen. Camilo Ligayo, the commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division, said that they are on ‘track’ of quelling the remaining ‘remnants’ of the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the region by the year-end.

The localized peace initiatives of the local governments are being made under their Friends Rescued Engagement through their Families (FReE) programs of the LGUs.
The said program was first implemented in Eastern Samar last September and subsequently introduced in Leyte and Samar provinces in February of this year.

“I congratulate the families and relatives of active NPAs in our area of operations in Samar and Leyte Islands for working together with the local government units in convincing their loved ones and relatives that are still active NPA members to abandon the CPP-NPA. Its deceptive ideology is family-disastrous and youth-exploiting,” he said.

Vestuir said that aside from ending the decades-long armed struggle being waged by the communist rebels, their decision to surrender will also help them transform into useful citizens.

Vestuir said that just last February and April, four former NPA members surrendered in Samar and two from Leyte last March and May, respectively.

Of the 36 who surrendered, 24 of them were regular NPA members while seven of them were armed civilian members of the outlawed group.

In all, 26 firearms, of which 14 were considered as high-powered firearms, were surrendered by them.

Based on their interviews, Vestuir said that aside from the relentless campaign by the military against them, these former rebels decided to give up the armed struggles due to hardships living in the mountains like lack of foods. (JOEY A. GABIETA)