Lt. General Arthur Tabaquero, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), has welcomed the surrender of a band of heavily-armed Lumads in a simple rite at the headquarters of the 8th Infantry Battalion here on Tuesday.
Tabaquero said the Lumads, composed of 31 armed and 49 unarmed sympathizers, is the biggest throng of lawless elements who surrendered during his watch as military commander in Eastern Mindanao area.
He hoped that with the surrender, criminal activities in the boundary of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur will be reduced and eventually minimized.
“This surrender is a victory for all sectors who work for the success of the Oplan Bayanihan, as we take an active role to spur the peace and development in the country,” he said.
Tabaquero assured that the government will support the needs of the surrenderees through the Social Integration Program as they adjust to live normal lives with their respective families.
The provincial government of Bukidnon also pledged to provide livelihood to the returnees.
Benjamin Salusad, alias Nonong, head of the group claimed they were members of the Front Committee 6 of the New People’s Army (NPA) and were serving as active militias of the rebels in the countryside.
He said the communist movement never helped them realize their ancestral domain claim.
“We feel left out and deceived by those who claimed as our educated leaders,” Salusad said.
He recalled joining the rebel group in the ’90s.
Salusad’s group yielded 25 high-powered firearms, one claymore mine, 20 meters of electric wire and two improvised landmines.
Lt. Colonel Jose Maria Cuerpo, commanding officer of the 8th IB urged other members of the lawless groups and NPA to take their cue from Salusad.