NEW LIVES. At least 21 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) surrendered in Sorsogon on Thursday (Oct. 27, 2022). Brig. Gen. Aldwine Almase, 903rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the welcome ceremony for the former rebels shows the government is continually giving a second chance to those who want to lead new lives. (PNA photo by Connie Calipay)

LEGAZPI CITY – At least 21 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) surrendered in Sorsogon on Thursday while two others were killed in a clash with government soldiers in Camarines Sur on Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Allan M. Mangaser, 9th Civic Military Operation (CMO) commander, presented the 21 former rebels (FRs) in a ceremony at the 903rd Infantry Brigade (903rd IBde) headquarters in Castilla town.

In his message, Brig. Gen. Aldwine Almase, 903rd IBde commander, said the ceremony welcoming the surrenderers is a manifestation that the government never closes its door to those who want to have a second chance.

"Today will be a momentous occasion for every one of us because we will formally welcome our brothers/sisters who have chosen the path of peace by abandoning the armed struggle and withdrawing their support to the communist terrorist group. We all know these FRs are victims of circumstances and exploitation by the communist rebels whose desire is to grab political power at the expense of our indigent brothers and sisters. The local communist leaders deprived our people of the opportunity to improve their lives," Almase said.

He also said the FRs were misled, and taught to embrace the culture of hatred and violence that made it easy to defy and rebel against the government.

"This undertaking aims to pave an avenue for them to be freed from the influence of the rebels and eventually find their way back to mainstream society and live a normal and peaceful life. For the former rebels and supporters, you made the right decision. Maybe it was a very confusing choice on your part because of fear and uncertainty but your decision will surely bring you in the right direction to make up for your lost time and opportunities," he said.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. John Paul Belleza, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson, said in a statement the two rebel fatalities in Camarines Sur were killed in an encounter with troops from the 83rd Infantry Battalion in Sitio Bagasbas, Barangay Del Pilar, Garchitorena town.

"After the encounter, the troops also captured two M16 rifles, one carbine rifle, two caliber .45 pistols, several rounds of ammunitions, one rifle grenade, one binocular telescope, two anti-personnel mines, and other personal belongings of the terrorist group," he said.

Also on Wednesday, troops of the 2nd Infantry Battalion reported the discovery of an NPA hideout that was used as a training facility in Barangay Bagacay, San Jacinto, Masbate.

"Inside the training area, the troops captured three anti-personnel mines and three rolls of electrical wire," Belleza said.

Data show the 903rd IBde has conducted 29 government-initiated encounters, neutralized 60 regular NPA members, 159 Militia ng Bayan members, and 1,136 supporters, and captured 136 firearms so far this year.

Maj. Gen. Alex Luna, commander of the 9th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB), again urged the remaining armed insurgents to heed the government’s call for unity and lay down their arms to be able to enjoy the company of their families, especially this Christmas season.

In the past few months, a series of encounters and surrenders in the Bicol Region were recorded in the database of accomplishments of the JTF Bicolandia as a result of the cooperation of the Bicolanos in the government's objective to totally eradicate insurgency in the country. (PNA)