SERVING THE PEOPLE. Daniel Castillo, a former political instructor of the Guerilla Front 55 of the New People's Army, is now a soldier after he graduated from the six-month training at the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID) Training School on Thursday (April 28, 2022). He was joined in the graduation by Gelejurain l Alce Nguho, the former supply officer of the same NPA guerilla front, who is also now a soldier under the 10ID. (Photo courtesy of 10ID)

DAVAO CITY – As former enemies of the state, serving in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was the last thing Daniel Castillo and Gelejurain l Alce Nguho had in mind. But fate has other plans.

From being communist New People’s Army (NPA) officers, these surrenderers are now full-pledged government soldiers as they forged another path to "serve the people."

Castillo, known as "Ka Steven" within the NPA, is a former political instructor of the Guerilla Front 55 who surrendered to the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in November 2020.

Nguho, meanwhile, is a former supply officer of the same guerilla front. He was among the 286 candidate-soldiers who finished their six-month training at the 10ID Training School on Thursday (April 28, 2022).

“My passion and skills were exploited by the communist group. Now that I am a soldier, I can use my skills and knowledge to serve our people,” Castillo told reporters during the closing ceremony of the Candidate Soldier Course held in the Davao de Oro town of Mawab.

At first, Castillo said the transition from being an NPA guerilla an Army serviceman was "tough." For starters, mingling with others was also a challenge for him because of his background.

“Soldiering is a regimented life. We have to wake up very early, we have to do drills, exercise. We were taught different skills and techniques to survive a soldier’s life to prepare us for the future,” he said.

Nguho, on the other hand, is the twin brother of Gelejurain II who was killed in a clash in February 2020 in New Bataan, Davao de Oro.

Gelejurain I was captured along with his girlfriend during an encounter in Paquibato District here in November 2020.

Gelejurain I decided to join AFP shortly after he was caught by government troops under the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion.

For him, his affiliation with the communist rebel group was not out of his own volition as he was only forced by his parents and siblings, who themselves NPA regulars themselves.

Mother’s wish

Paulette Castillo, Daniel’s mother, who is also a former regional peasant secretariat of the NPA's Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC), expressed her gratitude to the government for the chance given to his son.

“I am happy that he became a soldier as compared to the time when he was an NPA member,” Paulette, who served in the NPA for 30 years before surrendering in July last year, said.

Paulette cited the role of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for their peaceful surrender and transition.

“If not for the NTF-ELCAC, my son would have not been a soldier now. He would have continued in the armed struggle and will not surrender,” Paulette said.

Peace champions

The Task Force Tuganay, a group composed of former rebels who now work with the government in various peace initiatives, also expressed their gratitude for Daniel’s success.

“From NPA cadre to peace champion, and now a soldier for the Republic of the Philippines! Our most heartfelt congratulations to Pvt. Daniel "Ka Steven" Castillo for being part of the graduating Masinag class of 698-2021 under the 10th Infantry Division Training School,” the group said in a statement Thursday.

Task Force Tuganay described Daniel's story is one of struggle, hardship, and hope not just for former NPA rebels but also the Filipino youth.

“He was once a student activist from Quezon City. Daniel's desire to serve the people served as the gateway for the CPP to recruit him into the NPA and the armed struggle,” it said.

“Daniel serves as an inspiration for the youth to maximize all their time and talents for genuine service; he is also a reminder to former rebels, that the government is always willing to take in any NPA member willing to lay down their arms, and serve the country in more meaningful ways,” the task force added.

The Communist Party of the Philippines–NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The National Democratic Front (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)