By Mike Crismundo
BUTUAN CITY – The government is strategically winning the war against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (NPA) in Northeastern Mindanao or Caraga region.
This was the bold disclosure made by Brig. Gen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, commanding general of the Army’s 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade, during the joint open forum and press conference of the weeklong Mindanao Week of Peace (MWOP) held at St. Joseph Hall, San Lorenzo Ruiz, Pastoral Center, Barangay Ampayon, Butuan City, on Thursday, November 29.
The 402nd Brigade commander stressed that the government was already winning the war against the CPP-NPA in various parts of the region.
Caraga region is considered as the last bastion of the communist-guerilla movement due to its typical mountainous and forested terrain in Southern Mindanao.
“Yes, we are already gaining headway,” declared Gacal, when asked by newsmen.
The 402nd Brigade commander further disclosed that more than 300 communist NPA terrorists have already surrendered to the government since early this year.
He also claimed that more rebels are set to return to the fold of the law to avail of the government’s livelihood, peace and development program, a program that is jointly undertaken by all concerned line agencies of the government and local government units (LGUs).
The ground Army commander also cited the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP, where many former rebels decided to come down and avail the program to be productive and peaceful citizens in their respective communities.
Under the E-CLIP, a former rebel can avail of the P15,000 immediate cash assistance and P50,000 livelihood assistance when he surrenders. In addition, the surrendered firearms have an equivalent amount of money depending on the serviceability and caliber of the firearm, Brig. Gacal added.
Meanwhile, Lt. Tere Ingente, chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division also told the Manila Bulletin that hardship and lack of logistical support were among the reasons why many CPP-NPAs are giving themselves up.