Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija – Students of the University of Northern Philippines in Ilocos Sur made a significant and historic move when they wrote letters to NPA terrorists in the said province.
The letters were shared during the Information and Security Awareness Campaign of the 2nd Civil-Military Operations (KABALIKAT) Company, 7th CMO Battalion at the University of Northern Philippines in Barangay Tamag, Vigan, Ilocos Sur on 07 September 2019.
Around 100 students and 11 faculty members attended the event which is part of the celebration of the 40th National Reservist Week. The celebration was orchestrated by 1st Regional Community Defense Group, Army Reserve Command, Philippine Army under Colonel Francis C. Cabugon, the Group Commander.
The Campaign aims to strengthen the link between the different sectors in the community and the Philippine Army. Its goal is to build resilient communities that are immune to the influence and threat of leftist organizations. It also aims to provide information on timely issues and encourage young people to play a part in maintaining peace and development.
The students' letters urged NPA terrorists to abandon the armed struggle and return to their families. It asked for rebels to live normal lives and even mentioned the benefits of the Enhanced Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the government for rebel returnees.
In one letter, a student wrote: “Gusto ko lang pong iparating sa inyo na lahat ng tao kayang magbago, kaya kapatid let us spread the love upang ang ating bansa ay magkaroon ng tunay na kapayapaan at kaunlaran.” (I would like to let all of you [referring to the NPAs] know that everyone can change, so brother, let us spread the love so that our country could have real peace and progress.)
A relative of an NPA, in the Province, also sent an open letter: “Naghihintay na po ang inyong pamilya. Araw-araw po na nag-aalala ang inyong pamilya. Malapit na po ang pasko at bagong taon, hahayaan mo na lang po ba na ipagdiwang nila ito ng hindi ka nila kasama? Alalahanin nyo po ang inyong pamilya.” (Your family is waiting for you. Every day they worry about you. Christmas and New Year is near, will they celebrate once again without you? Please think about your family.)
According to Lieutenant Colonel Rodrigo Mariñas Jr., Commanding Officer of the 7th Infantry Division’s 81st Infantry Battalion, the youth are now aware of the realities and effects of insurgency in the society and they are ready to do something about it. Their letters, convincing the local terrorists to return to folds of the society is one such example of what they can do.
Major General Lenard T. Agustin, the 7ID Commander, expressed his pleasure over the youth of Ilocos Sur. “The youth's actions show their concern for both the NPAs and the families of these local terrorists who surely long for them. Moreover, it reflects their willingness to take on their share of responsibility in the pursuit of peace. So, I ask this of our misguided brothers; please give yourselves a chance to be happy in the bosom of your families and give the government a chance to change your lives for the better,” said Major General Agustin.