Ex-rebels see hope in gov’t; denounce CNN
TWO NPA FIGHTERS (back to the camera), including an amazona, who have since left the underground express hope of becoming productive citizens in an exclusive interview with Ven Arigo, EDCom’s news bureau chief. (Kenken/EDCom)
Downed by the “failed promises” of a leftist revolution, rebel returnees are seeing hope in the government they long fought but could not topple.
They were joined by former leaders of cause-oriented groups, militant peasant organizations and mass base in denouncing the “CNN,” shorter for the CPP-NPA-NDF or Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army-National Democratic Front in San Pascual, Ubay the other Friday.
Coming from different barangays in Ubay, they formed the Ilaya Farmers Association (IFA) led by Jacinto Mondragon and formally pledged “unity in adhering to the policies and programs of the government.” Ilaya means upland.
They took their oath before capitol Executive Assistant for External Affairs Isabelito Tongco representing Gov. Edgar Chatto, who could not come because of his weekly people’s report and media interaction dubbed the Kita ug Ang Gobernador and the visit of the papal nuncio from Vatican.
The activity was facilitated by the 2nd Special Forces Battalion and 5th Special Forces Company represented by Capt. Alfredo Caneo and 1st Lt. John Rey Labiao, respectively.
In his testimony, Juan “Ka Jojo” Aton, who surrendered to the military in Carmen, said he would just “save the masses from an ideology that only serves its masters.”
Aton, who had gone underground during the time of rebel leaders Epitacio “Kumander Vargas” Ramirez and Roy Erecre, had also worked in the “rebel legal fronts” as Bayan provincial auditor and municipal chairman for Ubay.
He had further acted as provincial council member and Ubay head of the militant Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (Humabol), which “ways disappointed” them.
Tongco and Provincial Agriculturist Liza Quirog, also the SEEM Cluster coordinator and Prosperity Team handler, assured them of the governor’s sincerity in assisting their sector.
They presented to them, who are all farmers, the programs on farm support, food self-sufficiency, livelihood and other essential concerns pursuant to HEAT Bohol and LIFE HELPS strategies of the province
Aton and Rolando Damolo, head of the group of farmers who are beneficiaries of the rebel resettlement in Tuburan, Ubay, said the government’s reaching out to them is most worth-embracing.
Damolo’s house used to be a safehouse for the rebels and their legal fronts. He used to safekeep NPA firearms. He also solicited money and food for militant group activities.
“Our reform and transformation are not merely for us but our children and our children’s children,” Aton said.
Hilda Juanillo, former Bohol leader of militant women’s group Gabriela, mainly attributed the armed struggle to knifing poverty.
The faithfulness of the government in assisting them in their “reporma” is so crucial, she hinted.
Priority concerns such as more lands to farm and water supply right at the rebel resettlement site, among others, were likewise raised.
The Department of Agriculture will be checked about its farm land in Calanggaman, Ubay where present and former Humabol members are in imminent clash over occupational right.
The assembly which included several former rebel symphatizers was also attended by Ubay agrarian reform officer Oliva galleto, San Pascual barangay officials led by captain Eduardo Golosino and DENR representatives who were also sent by the governor.
Tongco said that apart from what can the province do for them, capitol will assist the former rebel people in accessing to national agencies for more support.
Also a former district member of the communist white area committee in Bohol, Aton realized that “were were just used.”
After over 40 decades of the so-called protracted people’s war, no one among the poor masses has become a hero, he said.
He assailed CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison who “has been in the comfort of the Netherlands while the poor has been made to fight the government here in the country. The armed and legal fronts could hardly eat. We could thus ask who really are our enemies.”
The former rebels and the masses also expressed disappointment in Bayan Muna, Anak-Pawis and other progressive party-list groups in Congress.
Aton recalled that in a meeting in Loon years back, they in the legal fronts were told to prepare for “combat” in Negros.
He said Humabol “was good until it has since advocated armed struggle.”
Former NPA squad leader Gualberto Tumampos recounted his being “paid” P3,500 as monthly “food allowance” for his family who then thought he was working in Mindanao.
They no longer had “budget” when their kumander died in an encounter and, like an empty sack, he “could not stand up hungry and fight.”
Then single, Lorna Autentico took up in arms in her 20s until she thought of her future and very life should she pursue her being an NPA amazona.
Now 36 and married, she has to have a productive life together with her family as she received livelihood support from the government “that has not failed me.” (Ven rebo Arigo)