Gov Calingasan: we are ready for those who surrender even if not in the “order of battle”

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/ 11 January) – Bukidnon Gov. Alex
Calingasan said the provincial government is ready to extend
livelihood assistance to any person who returns to the fold of law whether they are in the military’s “order of battle.”

“Order of battle” is a military list of combatants in the New People’s
Army (NPA).

Calingasan told reporters Tuesday he is indifferent about the issue
because he believed that anyone who carries firearms has intent to go
against the government. He clarified to MindaNews Wednesday he was
referring to all those who are carrying firearms illegally.

The governor was reacting to reports doubting the identity of the
persons who turned themselves in as members of the communist New
People’s Army and surrendered to authorities.

Lt. Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion,
presented to the governor and the media three persons identified as
rebel returnees. They were identified as Nelio Padao aka “Raymond,”
Judy Padao aka “Renan,” and Tenoy Sabuan aka “Basag.”

The surrender of the three came after 80 alleged NPA members
surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in Maramag town on Nov. 15.

The returnees, led by Benjamin Salusad alias Nonong, also
reportedly turned in 25 high-powered firearms.

Only 31 of the returnees were said to be fulltime combatants and 49
were members of the Milisya ng Bayan (People’s Militia). Seventy of
them were males and most belong to the Tigwahanon, Matigsalog and Manobo
tribes of San Fernando.

Padao, 27, identified as a squad leader of the NPA’s Front Committee
6’ Sangay ng Platon Pamprograganda 3, said he heard Salusad on radio
station DXDB convincing former comrades to follow his surrender. The
front is called the Ernesto “Boyboy” Roa command that reacted to
Salusad’s earlier surrender belying they were rebels.

In the interview on air, Padao recalled that Salusad denied accusations
the military were abusing returnees.

With two other colleagues he said they escaped but an encounter ensued
when they met members fetching rice supply from the lowland.  A fourth
member was recaptured by the NPA and was reported killed.

Calingasan said the provincial government is committed to welcome the
rebels and also asked those who surrendered ahead, like Salusad, to give
the government more time.

2nd District Rep. Florencio T. Flores Jr, who was present in the media
presentation at the governor’s office, assured them the government
will not leave them behind.

But he added that there is no short cut to the returnees’ recovery.

He said there is a long process and not all of their needs will be
provided right away.

The provincial government is providing P30,000 financial assistance to
rebels returning with firearms and P5,000 for those identified as
“militiamen.”

Calingasan said the local livelihood assistance is not part of the
national government’s integration program, which he described as
“taking so long” to process.

Hansel Echavez, provincial livelihood officer, said social welfare
officers will conduct interviews with the returnees to identify their
needs, which will become the basis for the Office of the Presidential
Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for the release of assistance.
(Walter I. Balane)

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