CEBU CITY – A rebel returnee who is now working with a group advocating peace in Bohol province warned the public about the strategy of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to survive, that is to feed the people’s discontent.
Virgilio Quisto, a former rebel, said preying on people who feel helpless is the expertise of CPP-NPA for them to rise in arms against the government.
"Agitation as a strategy to keep discontent high,” Quisto said in his confession included in the information which he shared before testifying on government’s goodwill to returnees like him after deciding to go back to the fold of the law.
Among the issues raised to agitate the people against government evolved on social issues including land reform, palm oil, poverty and alleged militarization.
He said the CPP-NPA’s agitation strategy has special training and admitted he once worked as a key agitator and leader of the underground movement.
"Then, it was always easy to hit the raw nerve of the poor people, because we trained for that. Now, however, no matter how good the agitation is, somehow the government can easily get and appease the sentiments of the people," Quisto said in front of hundreds of land reform beneficiaries accepting their Certificates of Land Ownership Awards and Agricultural Free Patents during the service caravan in San Vicente village in Trinidad, Bohol on April 27.
Quisto's family received 2.14 hectares of land which they have cultivated since they occupied a portion of the government-sequestered lands of the abandoned Bohol Cattle Corporation.
"Ang ila, programa alang sa kagubot, wala silay Department of Agrarian Reform nga tinuod nga manghatag og yuta, wala silay programa alang sa mga kabus, ang ila, ang pagdakop sa emosyon sa tawo aron mo-alsa (Their program is all for disturbance. They don’t have DAR that distributes lands, they don’t have programs for the poor, what they have, is to capture people’s emotion to rise),” he said.
Quisto joined the CPP-NPA in Surigao del Sur in 1987 and served the armed wing of the National Democratic Front for 12 years.
He said after sensing that the government was getting serious in the campaign against the underground movement in Surigao peninsula, he and his family went home to Bohol.
"It was the government’s offensive against the rebels and overhead, we could see cannonballs flying and exploding in the hills," he said, describing his return to Bohol as a “rather comfortable situation”.
While in Bohol, he worked with the Bohol Guerilla Front 3 based in the mountains of Maribojoc, Loon, San Isidro, Calape Tubigon and Antequera.
He claimed he was present during the encounter in Tan-awan village in Tubigon in 1995 where, he said, they had two casualties.
Quisto went down from hiding in the mountains in 2016 and joined the legal front.
Between 2019 and 2020, Quisto again went active in the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda operating in the forests of Bilar, Batuan, and nearby towns but admitted he was too old for the mountain treks.
After he felt the disillusionment over empty promises in the movement, he decided to make it to the lowlands and live in peace.
Quisto, a member of the Talibon Trinidad Farmers Association (TTFA), is now helping the government in convincing former comrades to go back to the fold of the law.
In his testimony, he prodded his comrades who are still in the mountains fighting the lost cause to put cooperation and unity with the government in their hearts.
"Wala na ba diay gyuy luna sa inyong kasingkasing ang tinabangay ug hangopay sa masa? Wala na tay rason pa, kay ania na ang atong gitagna niadto nga dili madayon. Ania na, nagpang-apod-aporan na kita sa yuta, ug dili ang kalihukan ang nakahimo niini. Mabuhi ang mga mag-uuma, Mabuhi ang DAR (Is there no room in your heart for the cooperation and harmony of the masses? We have no more reason, for here is it today what we predicted then that will not be successful. Here it is, we are already distributing the land, and it is not the movement that is doing it. Long live the farmers. Long live DAR,” Quisto said.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)