LEAVING THE NPA. Ka Dori standing on a farm near their old encounter sites with government forces in Villareal, Samar in this undated photo. His decision to surrender after two decades of fighting the government has been instrumental in crippling the New People’s Army’s rebellion in the southwestern part of Samar Island. (PNA photo by Sarwell Meniano)

VILLAREAL, Samar – A one man's decision to turn his back from violence and harassment after two decades of fighting the government has been instrumental in crippling the New People's Army's (NPA) armed rebellion in the southwestern part of Samar Island.

As a fighter and an officer tasked with soliciting support from Samar’s poor communities, Ka Dori recruited dozens to join the armed struggle and encouraged villagers to provide food supplies to fighters.

But, when he surrendered to soldiers last March, he disclosed the location of 30 high-powered firearms hidden by the NPA.

After a few weeks, nine other fighters yielded to the government through Dori’s persuasion.

Dori, 49, belonged to the NPA’s guerilla front Gamol, the last band of armed rebels who actively fought the government until 2021.

Their areas of operation included the remote communities of Villareal, Sta. Rita, Basey, Pinabacdao, and Calbiga towns.

The former rebel recalled how the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA repeatedly failed to send logistics when it needed most as the government intensified combat operations in 2021.

“The increased presence of the military in villages conducting the community support program was also a turning point to me. Those communities where we expected to get food supplies have already withdrawn their support to us. It has lowered the morale of NPA fighters,” Dori said in an interview with reporters in Plaridel village here on Thursday.

He recalled how difficult life was being chased by soldiers and dealing with sleepless nights and days without anything to eat.

“The years' hardship and awareness of the government’s good intention to help former rebels gave me the courage to voluntarily showed up at the Army’s 46th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Calbiga, Samar,” he added.

At the age of 27, Dori joined the CPP-NPA in 2000 to run part-time errands for rebels in Tacloban City.

Among his first tasks were to transport supplies and accompany NPA members to their hideouts in the city.

His recruiter was Ka Mayang, who happened to be a friend of his mother and a leader of the terror group's front organization in the Eastern Visayas.

The NPA leader frequently visited Dori’s family and persuaded the latter to join the communist terrorist group through indoctrination.

“After I surrendered, Ka Mayang visited me inside the army headquarters. She’s very pleased with my decision,” Dori added.

His decision to abandon the fight was earlier made by his recruiter when soldiers captured Mayang twice between 2006 to 2007.

It was under the custody of soldiers, she contemplated abandoning the communist organization.

Col. Lenart Lelina, commander of the Army’s 801st Infantry Brigade, said the early dismantling of the remaining guerilla front in Samar can be attributed to Dori’s participation in the anti-insurgency drive.

“The surrender of more NPA rebels here paved the way for the easier delivery of basic services here since there are no more combat operations in these areas,” Lelina said.

On Thursday, hundreds of residents from previously NPA-influenced communities in Villareal trooped to Plaridel village here to avail of services from various national government agencies and the local government.

Free medical checkups, dental services, civil registration, haircut, appliance repair, shoe and umbrella repair, and circumcision were offered.

There was also the distribution of medicines and vitamins, seeds and other farm inputs, toys, slippers, food packs, and emergency kits, among others.

The activity is a joint project of the regional, provincial, municipal task forces to end local communist armed conflict (ELCAC).

The task force-ELCAC, created under Executive Order 70 issued on Dec. 4, 2018, “provides an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to aid in the realization of collective aspirations for inclusive and sustainable peace.”

Samar Island used to be one of the strongholds of armed rebels due to the densely forested mountainous areas, high poverty incidence, and issue of widespread landlessness, based on a 2013 study by William Norman Holden of the University of Calgary in Canada.

The NPA launched its first tactical operation in the country in Calbiga, Samar in 1974, when its members ambushed an Army scout patrol and seized several weapons.

In 1976, the NPA gained popular support among the inhabitants of Samar following its actions against cattle rustling gangs.

The NPA, which has been engaged in a five-decade armed struggle, 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 has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the ATC on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)