DAVAO CITY – A communist rebel who was once the face of the controversial UCCP-Haran "bakwit" (evacuee) saga in this city has surrendered to the government.
Jong Monzon, former secretary-general of the "Pasakaday Salugpongan Kalimodan" (PASAKA), confirmed suspicions that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) was behind the ploy to use the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in a public campaign to demonize the military.
Several military officials have accused the rebels of exploiting tribe members to pressure government troops in abandoning hinterland areas under the influence of the CPP-NPA.
In a virtual press conference organized by the Army's 701st Brigade (701Bde) Tuesday afternoon, Monzon--whose real name is Cristoni "Jun" Latiban Monzon--said the Haran evacuees were also "exploited" by the CPP-NPA to gain financing for their anti-government activities.
"I think the media can still remember my name: I was assigned in UCCP-Haran (in Davao City) where the IPs were gathered to pose as evacuees (bakwits in local dialect). We were there, as mandated by the leaders of the CPP-NPA, to act as their best defense. We were told to cry for human rights violation," Monzon, 29, said.
From 2015-2021, Monzon said he acted as the spokesperson to cater to media inquiries regarding the supposed plight of the IPs from various parts in Mindanao.
During their first year, authorities estimated over 500 of them taking "refuge" inside the UCCP Haran in Davao City.
"The role of IPs in the CPP is to pose as their "proof" that there is indeed harassment against them by military troops. In truth, this is only being used...to show to the potential sponsors or partners. The CPP profits a lot by asking support from the international community, universities, and hospitals here," Monzon alleged.
In April 2021, the Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued an arrest warrant against six administrators of the UCCP-Haran for child abuse.
Monzon was among those named in warrant, which included UCCP Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Rev. Daniel Palicte, Ephraim Malazarte, Lindy Trenilla, and Grace Avila. They have been charged with two counts of violation of RA 7610 or the Child Abuse Law.
"The CPP-NPA leaders told us to retreat to the countryside because of the case," he said.
Monzon surrendered to authorities in Boston town, Davao Oriental, on March 8.
He surrendered along with two other IP rebels -- Mentroso Tumagsa Malibato alias “Raquel”, 50, and Danny Tiklunay Malibatu alias "Rolly", 32.
The Philippine Army said Monzon and the two other surrenderers cited hardship, hunger, and fear of dying in a combat with government forces that led them to surrender.
Chad Booc 'combatant'
In a separate statement, Monzon said that IP teacher Chad Booc was with them when their group engaged government troops in a series of encounters at Andap, New Bataan, Compostela town in Davao de Oro, which led to Booc's death.
Monzon, who hails from Davao Oriental, said that like him, it was likely that Booc was recruited by the NPA while in college.
He said rebel recruiters approached him and radicalized him while he was a student taking up Civil Engineering course in Davao City's University of Mindanao sometime in 2010.
He also warned other students to stay clear from the paths of activist groups that are known fronts of the CPP-NPA, "lest they may end up" like him and his other colleagues.
Meanwhile, 701Bde commander Brig. Gen. Oliver Maquiling expressed gratitude for the help of the local government in facilitating the surrender of the three rebels.
"The government is more than willing to accept and assist the few remaining NPA members who wish to help themselves by going back to the mainstream society living normal and peaceful lives," Maquiling said.
For his part, Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayangharing urged the rest of the NPA rebels to follow the decision of their former colleagues "while there is a good chance to do so."
"President Rodrigo Duterte is offering the members of CPP-NPA a good chance to surrender. I hope that you take this opportunity while it is here because the election is coming and we do not know what the policies of the next president will be. Take this chance while you have it," Dayanghirang was quoted in a military briefer released Tuesday.
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.
The NDF has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)