Northern Samar Governor Edwin Ongchuan asked for the intervention of the national government on its continued fight against the communist rebels during a meeting with DILG Sec. Benhur Abalos. Photo shows Ongchuan with B/Gen.Perfecto Peñaredondo, the assistant commander of the 8th Infantry Division, and B/Gen. Lenart Lelina, the commanding officer of the 801st Infantry Brigade. (ROEL T. AMAZONA)

TACLOBAN CITY – Northern Samar Governor Edwin Ongchuan has said that the government should implement an amnesty program to encourage more members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to surrender.

Ongchuan made this suggestion during the Joint Task Force on End Local Communist Armed Conflict (JTF-ELCAC) Eastern Visayas meeting here on Monday (Oct.2) with Interior Sec. Benhur Abalos, Jr. as the guest.

“Marami pa pong gustong magbalik-loob kaso naantala po dahil sa pending warrant of arrest,” the governor said.

Ongchuan said that an amnesty from the government is necessary for the NPA members to be convinced to surrender.

He added that there are members of their “local peacebuilders,” referring to former rebels who are now under their care, who are being arrested due to pending warrants issued by the courts for their previous crimes.

“Medyo nahihirapan po ang ating mga kapulisan at ang AFP kasi sini-serve po yung pending warrant of arrest so, maganda sana kung may possible na amnesty,” Ongchuan said.

Abalos promised that he would bring this concern to the corresponding government agencies like the Department of Justice and ask the governor to make a report on what are the cases filed against active NPA members in the province.

“This issue is one of the solutions. However, maraming side ito, the legal side etc., anong condition dito, but the intent for me should be looked at and the intent for me is what is peace is all about,” he said.

Prior to the JTF-ELCAC meeting, Sec Abalos led the distribution of cash assistance worth P4.6 million to 51 former rebels from Northern Samar and Eastern Samar whose documents were processed and cleared to receive benefits under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), a government strategy to convince active rebels to surrender by providing them financial packages, livelihood, housing and education assistance, and firearm remuneration.

Of the 51 surrenderees, 35 were from Northern Samar while 16 were from Eastern Samar.
Moreover, of the 20 communist fronts operating in the country, 19 are already weakened by the government forces and only one remains, according to Sec Abalos.

This remaining guerilla front in operating in the region, particularly on Samar Island he added during the JTF-ELCAC meeting.

The meeting was attended by governors of the six provinces of the region, top officials of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the chairman of the Regional Development Council 8 Ormoc City Mayor Lucy Torres-Gomez, and Regional Peace and Order Council 8 Chairman Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez.