By Francis Wakefield
Some 217 of the 683 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who had surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-EastMinCom) are now in Manila for a scheduled dinner in Malacañang with President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night.
Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesman of the AFP-EastMinCom, said the first batch of NPA rebels who returned to the fold of the law were sent off at the Tactical Operation Group 10 in Sasa, Panacan, Davao City about 9 a.m. Tuesday.
In a statement, Balagtey said the dinner to be held starting at 5 p.m. is meant to encourage the active participation of the former rebels in nation-building and peace efforts.
Prior to the dinner, the rebel-returnees will be welcomed at Tejeros Hall in Camp Aguinaldo at 8 a.m. tomorrow which will be presided by Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Rey Leonard Guerrero.
The former rebels will also have an educational tour of Intramuros and Malacañang in Manila, and other historic places.
In coordination with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Balagtey said the former rebels will then be brought to the mushroom production and other farms in Bulacan to help them get ideas on how to improve their lives and be self-sustaining.
It will be an all-expense-paid trip, Balagtey said.
AFP spokesman Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo earlier said that the surrender of many NPA rebels is “unprecedented” and proves that their campaign against the communists is effective.
Arevalo said just for the month of January 2018 alone, some 326 NPA rebels have already surrendered to authorities to lead new lives in mainstream society. (With a report from Yas D. Ocampo)