CATAINGAN, MASBATE – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Wednesday, January 9, vowed to protect civilians residing in the mountains from “harassment” and “intimidation” by members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The Chief Executive made this promise at the Cataingan National High School Grandstand where he received 118 former NPA rebels who surrendered to the government.
During the event, President Duterte personally heard the sentiments of former rebels who said they were coerced into joining the communist movement out of fear and intimidation by members of the NPA.
They also expressed their sincere gratitude to President Duterte for urging NPA rebels to surrender and return to the fold of the law, saying that they are now living more peacefully.
The President gave each of the former rebels financial assistance and a smartphone among others, saying that they can use the cellphone to immediately “report” activities of the NPA, particularly intimidation and harassment, for their own safety and protection.
“If the NPA’s approach you and try to ask favors or intimidate you into doing something, tell them you are not obliged to do that. You are under my protection,” he stressed.
“If the fighting in some areas continues, I will send more soldiers there,” he added.
Duterte also inquired about the health condition of the former rebels and vowed to send food packs, farm equipment, as well as livestock to far-flung areas where food is scarce.
Meanwhile, the President assured the former NPA members that land reform under his administration is being fast-tracked in a bid to achieve lasting peace, saying that unfair distribution of land has been one of the root causes of the communist rebellion in the country.
“Isn’t it land reform that you are fighting for? All government-owned lands will be given to you. Do not steal private properties or extort,” said Duterte.
“You do not need to join the NPA in order to have land reform. I am already having the land reform program fast-tracked. I am going around the country distributing [land titles], I am already doing it.” he added.###PND