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Former NPA rebel finds redemption in Project Apoy

BORONGAN CITY – In a story of redemption and reconciliation, alias Marta, a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA), found her way back to her family after years of separation.

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The reunion took place during the launching of Project Apoy (Advocating Programs that promote reconciliation and Optimizing gains Yielding to Peace) in Borongan City on Monday, June 10.

Marta, a 56-year-old mother of 11 from Borongan City, joined the NPA in 2000 and became a full-time member in 2019.

Reflecting on her time with the NPA, she expressed regret for the hardships they faced, including hunger and separation from their families.

“They told us to join the NPA not only for our children but for the people, but when we got there, we realized that we became the problem because we could not work in the mountains, instead, we kept asking for food from civilians, which added to their burden,” she recalled.

The Apoy platoon, operating in Western and Eastern Samar, faced challenges that led Marta to question her decision to join the armed struggle.

“We were only eating fruits like anahaw to survive. We experienced hunger in the mountains. We would walk for eight days when we felt the soldiers closing in. I could not help but think of my children who were separated from us and those who were assigned in different areas. We were made to believe that we will be together once we joined the organization,” she lamented.

The success of the Localized Peace Engagement (LPE) and the Friends Rescued through the Engagement of their Families (FReE Families) program facilitated Marta’s surrender despite fears instilled by the NPA that she would be tortured and killed by soldiers when she surrenders.

Strategic initiatives by local government units in Samar and Eastern Samar, along with the efforts of the 802nd Infantry (Peerless) Brigade, significantly reduced the NPA’s manpower and led to the surrender of firearms.

Project Apoy, an initiative aimed at promoting reconciliation and peace, brought former NPA members together to help facilitate the surrender of their comrades.

Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir, 802nd Infantry Brigade commander, highlighted the role of former NPAs in encouraging their peers to lay down their arms and embrace peace.

“The former Apoy platoon members will kill the burning anger and fear of their remaining members for them to finally lay down their arms and surrender,” Vestuir said.

Marta, the first in her family to surrender, played a crucial role in convincing her former comrades to abandon the NPA. Her efforts, along with the support of government programs, led to the surrender of several former NPAs and the reduction of the Apoy platoon’s strength.

“I did my best to help my comrades surrender. Even Ka Margie, one of my squad mates, was rescued by the soldiers by having her ride a helicopter, because it would take days for her to go down,” she said.

Marta and others who were deceived by the NPA’s propaganda express gratitude for a second chance at life and warned against falling for the deceptive promises of the group.

“People should avoid being swayed by the NPA’s deceptive promises. For the older ones like us, it was really hard because we could barely walk and we were hungry, which made us decide to end the pointless war.”

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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