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'WE DON'T WANT WAR': Army calls on rebels to embrace peace

ILOILO CITY (PIA6) -- The commander of the 301st Infantry "Bayanihan" Brigade (IB) has renewed his call for the members of the New People's Army (NPA) to go back to the side of the government and reconsider the path of peace in dealing with all their causes.

Brigadier General Michael Samson made this statement in a media interview following the encounter between the rebels and the troops of the 61st Infantry Battalion on Feb. 28 in the hinterland village of San Joaquin, Iloilo province.

"Actually, ang aton panawagan, kung magbalik lang sila sa sabak sang gobyerno, wala gid sang problema, we will welcome. Waay man namon na ginakalipay ang engkwentro kung sa diin may mapatyan either sides," Samson said.

(Actually, if they want to return to the government, there's no problem because we welcome them. We don't even want that there are casualties on either sides because of the clash.)

Samson reiterated that the government would be helping those rebels who want to go back to the mainstream society through different programs, like the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Ang gusto gid ya namon para matapos, they just avail the program of the government, like E-CLIP. Ti maayo man na para magsugod na sila to become better citizens with their families. We call on them, mag-isa na ta nga mauntat na ni para ka create na kita sang peaceful, sustainable environment that is conducive for the development. We are the army, we are with the people,” he elaborated.

(What we want is for them to avail government's programs, like the E-CLIP. It is beneficial for them to start a new life and become better citizens with their families. We call on them to go back and join us so that we will have a peaceful and sustainable environment that is conducive for development. We are the army, we are with the people.)

The army commander, however, stressed that they would not hesitate to use military forces if the rebels resort to 

Brigadier General Michael Samson said they also conducted pursuit operations in San Joaquin, Iloilo as some of the rebels were able to escape the area, with some being wounded during the encounter. (PIA Iloilo file photo)

violence to advance their causes, noting that it is their mandate to fight the NPAs and to end the insurgencies in the community.
"We are with the government, we offer all our efforts to welcome them in the mainstream society, but if they insist on fighting, then we will also use force. This is also to protect the lives of our soldiers," Samson said.

Meanwhile, the 301st IB reported that three suspected rebels were killed during the said encounter against the Southern Front of the NPA's Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay.
The soliders also seized five high-powered firearms, including four M16 Armalite rifles and one AK47 rifle, a commercial radio, and nine backpacks containing their personal belongings.

Samson explained that the military operation aimed to preempt the alleged plans of the rebels, including the conduct of tactical offensives in the province, targeting government forces and development projects.

He already ordered deployment of troops to nearby areas to assure the safety of the community, noting that the residents' accurate information on the presence of the NPA helped in the success of the operation.

Samson concluded that they already wanted to end the more than 50 years of communist insurgency in a peaceful way rather than resulting in encounters, just like what happened in San Joaquin, Iloilo province.

"How we wish that the insurgency problem will end already and will not result in encounters. But what happened yesterday is an example of when they insist on fighting against the government. We will not hesitate also to use force to pressure them to take the best alternative -- to go back to the government," the commander said. (AAL/JNH/PIA Iloilo)

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John Noel Herrera

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Region 6

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