NPA commander yield to Army unit in North Cotabato town

Mindanao Armed Conflict  • Mon Oct 2, 2017 01:12 PM  •  359   0
By John Unson
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 Alex Gawilan turned in an M16 assault rifle as he surrendered to the Army on Sunday. (JOHN UNSON)
Alex Gawilan turned in an M16 assault rifle as he surrendered to the Army on Sunday. (JOHN UNSON)
NORTH COTABATO --- A senior commander of the New People’s Army whose group figured in deadly clashes with state forces in recent months surrendered on Sunday. 

Alex Gawilan, most known as “Banate,” yielded to the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion in a clandestine meeting in Arakan town in North Cotabato that Lumad elders and local officials brokered.
 

Lt. Col. Harold Argamosa of the 39 Infantry Battalion said on Monday that Gawilan also turned his M-16 assault rifle during the simple, but symbolic event. 

Gawilan and his men operated in the forested hinterlands at the border of Bukidnon and North Cotabato provinces. 

“The 39th IB is thankful to the elected and traditional leaders in North Cotabato who helped convince him to return to the fold of law,” Argamosa said.
 

The 38-year-old Gawilan told reporters he decided to surrender after realizing that the NPA has evolved from an organization fighting for the rights of Filipinos into an abusive group of rogue gunmen extorting money from hapless victims. 

Gawilan also assailed the NPAs wanton use of victim–activated improvised explosive devices, such as booby traps and landmines, against villagers suspected of conniving with the military or for refusing to pay “protection money,” in total disregard of international warfare doctrines. 

“The NPA says it is fighting for human rights but uses outlawed armaments against unarmed targets,” Gawilan said in Visayan dialect. 

Gawilan is a commander in the Sentro De Gravidad group of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 53, whose members were behind last month’s series of attacks in North Cotabato’s Arakan, President Roxas and Magpet towns. 

He also warned of a plan by the NPA to abduct more police and military personnel to create an impression that it is still a force to reckon with. 

“The good treatment of captives and their release through negotiations are all meant to attract attention. All but propaganda,” Gawilan said. 

Argamosa said they will help link Gawilan to government agencies that provide humanitarian assistance to rebels who have pledged allegiance to the Philippine flag to ease their return to mainstream society.

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