DAVAO CITY – A high-ranking leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) surrendered to the Army’s 1002nd Brigade through North Cotabato Rep. Rudy Caoagdan in Barangay Sto. Nino in Arakan, North Cotabato on June 22.
Pedro “Ka Peter” Arnado, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (KMP-SMRC) and national treasurer, returned to the fold of the law due to physical exhaustion, weakened party leadership, and weakening of mass bases.
In a virtual briefing during his presentation to the media on Wednesday, the 53-year old Arnado said he surrendered to the government as he was concerned about his illness and is getting older.
“I'm getting older and I think the government is right. Yesterday, when the operatives came and asked me to surrender, I did not think twice and voluntarily surrendered. They welcomed me with open arms and assured me that I don’t have anything to worry about,” he said in the vernacular.
Arnado, a 20-year member of KMP, said putting up a communist-led government is too ambitious and impossible to achieve.
He also cited the series of neutralization of other high profile NPA cadres, false promises of the communist terrorist groups, and their isolation from their family as the reasons for his surrender.
He admitted that he was wrong in believing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were executioners of people who came from the communist terrorist group (CTG).
“The time I decided to surrender, I really believe that it is the end since we thought that AFP soldiers were executioners and do not give mercy to people like us, but I (was) wrong. During my surrender yesterday, I did not hear them scolding me or even touch me. They talked to me with diplomacy, that’s why I am here now,” Arnando said. “I presented myself because I know I’m safe with their care.”
He added that due to a series of neutralization of other high-profile NPA cadres, false promises of the CTGs, especially their isolation from their loved ones caused him to pledge his full cooperation and support to the government.
Fall of the CTGs
Arnado recalled that when then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte became President, they were told to surrender and return to the government.
“He told us during our last dialogue on May 9, 2016, during the Manilakbayan that we should stop, surrender and take a rest and he does not want to see our faces again. So we decided to go back to Mindanao and we have continuous communication with our comrades in Visayas and Luzon and we realized that our group was already weak and have fallen,” he said.
Arnado said after 2016, their group no longer communicated and was inactive, noting that at their last assembly in 2015, they were about 3,700 in Southern Mindanao.
“That’s when I realized that I am the only one left in Southern Mindanao and most of them have already surrendered,” he said.
Being with the CTGs for 20 years, Arnado said it was only during his surrender that made him realize that he wasted those years for nothing.
“I regret spending my 20 years with them. I should have spent it with my family. I should have taken care of my family, and I should’ve been productive,” he said.
He added that he had prior plans to surrender when then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte became President in 2016 and started the crackdown campaign against CPP-NPA-NDF but was told by the communist terrorists that he will be dead if he surrenders.
Since the assumption of office of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, Arnado said the KMP was already on the brink of being dismantled due to the disunity and disintegration of its members.
Arnado, who was then KMP vice president for Mindanao, led and organized a group of 6,000 farmers from different parts of North Cotabato province in a rally in front of the National Food Authority provincial office in Kidapawan City, demanding government assistance over PHP1 billion losses caused by El Niño. The picket dispersal reportedly left 2 rallyists dead.
The Kidapawan incident, he said, was a “tragedy” on the part of the farmers who were deceived into thinking that the calamity fund can be release through demonstration and public disturbance.
He sought forgiveness from its almost 4,000 members in Southern Mindanao for all the deception they have done for several years and urged the people to distance themselves from individuals convincing them to join the communist group.
Arnado also admitted that the Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) program is a living testimony that the government is doing everything to help the poor unlike the ideology instilled in them that the government is not working.
“Based on the testimonies of the farmers, through ELCAC they were provided with livelihood, animals, and others. In Sto. Nino, Arakan where I lived, they were provided with a drier for their corn and rice harvest. So if you think about it, the beneficiaries said that they received the assistance from the government, meaning the government is really working and helping the poor families,” he said.
KMP, along with Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, League of Filipino Students, and KADENA were earlier named by CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison as part of the CPP-NPA.
Arnado said KMP, having no financial capability, only provides moral support to the NPA.
“Hindi namin i-dedeny nag nagkikita-kita ang NPA at KMP at nagbibigay lang ng moral na suporta sa NPA dahil ang KMP ay walang pinansyal na kapasidad upang sila ay suportahan,” he said.
“35-taon na ang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas pero kailanman hindi ito natulungan ang mga magsasaka para bumaba ang presyo ng farm inputs o maitaas ng presyo ng ani (In the 35 years of KMP, it has never helped farmers through lower price of farm inputs and increased harvest),” he added.
Meanwhile, 1002nd commander, Brig. Gen. Potenciano Camba, said Arnado’s surrender has a huge effect on the remaining more than 3,000 members of KMP.
“With more than 3,000 farmer members we hope that they will also cut their ties with KMP. We hope that Ka Peter’s call will urge them to also surrender and return to the folds of the government,” he said.
He added that many KMP members joined the armed ranks of the NPA like the late Ka Joel, former secretary of Guerrilla Front 53.
“I hope we trust our government and let's help stop this insurgency,” Camba said.
Rep. Caoagdan, on the other hand, brought Pedro to the hospital immediately after the press conference to check his health status.
He vowed to personally follow up the assistance of the government intended for the Arnado.
Lt Col Jose C Regonay, Jr., 72nd Infantry Battalion commander, thanked the former KMP leader trusting the government in his desire to start anew.
Major General Ernesto C Torres, Jr., 10th Infantry Division commander expressed hope that Arnado's surrender will pave the way to the realization of other KMP members and other communist-affiliated mass organizations to disassociate themselves from deceitful groups, and be a part of the government’s program in attaining true peace and sustainable development.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA with PR)