EV’S BETS. About 294 young athletes from the region are seeing actions in this year’s week-long Palarong Pambansa in Marikina City which will start on Monday (July 31). Top officials of the Department of Education led by Regional Director Evelyn Fetalvero(center) and her assistant Ronilo Firmo(left) visited the young athletes at their quarters at the Marikina Elementary School. (DEPED-VIII)

Ex-NPA leader says move could encourage others to surrender

TACLOBAN CITY– The plan of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. to give amnesty to all former members of the New People’s Army (NPA), was welcomed by security officials and even by a former rebel leader in the region.

This move, they say, could hasten the end of the communist insurgency in the country, including in Eastern Visayas where the communist armed group continues to persist.
Pres. Marcos during his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 24 urged Congress to issue a proclamation giving amnesty to former NPA members to ease their reintegration into society.

Under the country’s Constitution, a presidential amnesty proclamation could only take effect only upon the concurrence of a majority of all members of Congress.

“We welcome the pronouncement of the President and our Commander-in-Chief on giving the amnesty to the former rebels. This will pave the way for the attainment of genuine peace that we work in the ground and longed for by our people for a long time,” B/Gen. Noel Vestuir, the commanding officer of the 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Borongan City, Eastern Samar, said on Sunday (July 30).

The Army official said that they hope that this offer of the President will be accepted by the former rebels.

“We expect that they would take the opportunity being offered by the President. Many of them have even surrendered even without the amnesty, how much more now,” Vestuir added.

This sentiment was also shared by the region’s top police officer, B/ Gen.Vincent Calanoga who said that the amnesty program being offered by the Marcos administration could just hasten the end of the communist insurgency in Eastern Visayas.

“Personally, it will be a big help to have a real and truthful reconciliation. If you want to have unity, there should be a reconciliation,” he said.

For her part, Alma Gabin said this move will be a big help not only to former rebels like herself but even to those who are still active in the outlawed armed group for them to give up their arms struggle.

Gabin, who served as the education secretary of the Eastern Visayas regional party committee, said that she hope that this proposed amnesty program will be realized.
“We will be thankful if all will be granted amnesty. This will encourage (active members) to surrender,” she said.

Gabin, 38, was a member of the armed communist group since she was 15 and was mostly assigned in Northern Samar province, considered the last bastion of the communist armed struggle in the region.

She was arrested in 2020 in Tolosa, Leyte, together with her husband. Both were charged with frustrated murder and murder but were provisionally dismissed by the courts in April 2021 due to a lack of witnesses on the part of the government.

At present, Gabin is under the custody of the military after she renounced her affiliation with the NPAs and since then, serve as one of the speakers of the military on its anti-communist campaigns.