Lieutenant Colonel Marceliano 'Kit' Teofilo, Commanding Officer of the 68th Infantry Battalion, said he facilitated the surrender of the former MILF fighters at 10:30 a.m. yesterday (Dec 1) in Tulunan town.
“The surrenderees handed over 32 assorted firearms in a ceremony witnessed by the local officials and non-government organizations,” said Teofilo.
Colonel Cesar Dionisio T Sedillo, Commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade likewise witnessed the mass surrender of the former rebels.
“The local government of Tulunan will help these former rebels return to the mainstream society. They are now integrated in the peace and development program of the LGU as part of the government’s campaign to provide assistance to rebels who return to the folds of law,” said Sedillo.
The former rebels are now employed as banana plantation workers through the help of some supporters from the business sector.
Instead of carrying their guns, they are weeding out the fields and operating the mechanized equipment used in the farm.
One of the surrenderees recounts his hardships while in the rebel movement. He said that he wants his children to finish school and gain employment in the future.
“We are tired of fighting and living in violence. We thank the government for giving us a chance to embrace a life of peace and to be productive citizens of this country,” he said.
While peacefully working in the farm, another group of MILF rebels threatened their livelihood by attacking the community where they reside.
On November 26, more or less 150 rebels led by a certain Commander Jun Pananggulon Commander Bhoto Mantol and Commander Gani Saligan, mounted simultaneous attacks against their former comrades who were tending the farm in Sitio Pedtad, Brgy Dungos.
A leader of the former rebels claimed that a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) – trained bomber whom he personally knew was among the attackers.
One was killed and two were wounded among the former MILF rebels who were working in the farm during that time.
With the present mass surrender, the soldiers have also assisted 189 families who were displaced during the fighting.
“The local government and the representatives of the DSWD are helping us in caring for the Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) who stayed in the temporary evacuation center in town since last week,’ said Teofilo.
I have also sent a company of soldiers to protect the community where the former MILF rebels reside,” he added.
Due to the ongoing peace negotiation with the MILF, the Army troops are constrained from engaging the MILF in armed confrontation unless directly attacked.
Instead of escalating the conflict, the soldiers used their negotiation skills to defuse the tension and to facilitate the evacuation of IDPs and wounded workers.
The Local Government of Tulunan town led by Mayor Lani Candolada is now preparing a complaint to be brought to the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) regarding the violations of the MILF such as perpetrating violent attacks during the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.
Meanwhile, Army Chief Major General Emmanuel T Bautista emphasized that he will continue to pursue the IPSP Bayanihan, but ensured that the Army will apply legitimate force and uphold the rule of law against those who insist to use arms and remain threats to peace and development.
Soldiers and local government officials inspect the weapons handed-over by the members of the MILF who surrendered to the government yesterday.