Are they really ex-rebels? Photos of masked former NPA surrenderees spark suspicion online

January 27, 2021 - 7:14 PM
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NPA surrenderees
Individuals initially alleged to be surrenderees of the New People's Army at the Philippine National Police's Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig in this photo uploaded on Facebook on Jan. 26, 2021. (The STAR/Michael Varcas)

Questions were raised following the release of the photos of alleged New People’s Army surrenderees as social media users noticed details which they perceived to be unlikely for rebels who reside in remote areas.

On Tuesday, some alleged 30 members of NPA from Metro Manila and other regions were convinced to surrender after being supposedly fed up with the monthly collections of the CPP-NPA.

CPP stands for Communist Party of the Philippines.

Police Major General Vicente Danao Jr., director of the National Capital Region Police Office, claimed that they are mostly composed of truck drivers who have to give up ten percent of their salaries to the organization.

“They are working hard on their jobs, and yet they are forced to give 10 percent of their salaries every month. So they were the milking cows [of the communist rebels],” he said in an interview.

Danao added that the group availed the rebel returnee program of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict where former rebels will receive assistance from the government.

These include P15,000 for immediate assistance, P50,000 for livelihood assistance and P12,000 to P500,000 for firearms remuneration.

The alleged surrenderees also took the oath of allegiance to the republic in a program held at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

Last week, at least 448 alleged NPA supporters surrendered in Agusan del Norte as a result of peace consultations and dialogues conducted by the military.

Observations

After the pictures of the alleged NPA members were uploaded by various media outfits, some Filipinos expressed doubts on the surrenderees’ credibility due to some unusual details in the photos.

A Facebook user claimed that an NPA member will not do a fistbump gesture associated with the Duterte administration since it is “fascist” which is in contrast to a communist’s beliefs.

He also questioned the physical appearance of the alleged surrenderees and claimed that NPA members “traverse mountains like mountain goats” which supposedly make them fit.

NPA members are known to reside in the hinterlands and remote areas.

The online user likewise commented that “expensive watches, electronic car keys and expensive sports shoes” could be seen on the zoomed-in versions of the photos.

Similar observations were also found by some Twitter users.

Militant labor union group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) accused the police of supposedly fooling people with the report of alleged NPA surrenderees.

“Paano naging NPA ang manggagawa na 8 oras at higit pa sa halos buong linggo sa produksyon? Ayon sa nakalap na impormasyon ng KMU, tinakot at ginipit ang manggagawa,” the group said in a statement.

“Gamit ang gawa-gawang watchlist ng mga pulis, napilitan ang manggagawa na mag-‘report’ upang diumano ay ‘ma-clear’ ang kanilang mga pangalan. Ginagatasan sila ng PNP para mapasakamay ng mga ito ang pabuya sa ilalim ng Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP),” KMU added.

The group cited a similar incident in May 2020 when labor union leaders in a Laguna-based beverage plant were accused of being NPA members.

“Gamit ang kanilang mga ahente, nagsasagawa ng impiltrasyon at binubulabog ng PNP ang mga unyon upang mailunsad ang kanilang peke at malisyosong propaganda, magpalaganap ng korapsyon at sa likod ng lahat ng ito, pahinain ang pagkakaisa ng manggagawa sa harap ng matinding laban para sa sahod, trabaho at karapatan,” KMU said.

Meanwhile, a caption of a social media post featuring pictures of the alleged NPA surrenderees has been corrected to report that the masked individuals were “some 30 personalities who recently withdrew their allegiance and support from underground movement engineered by leftist labor groups.”

This was not the first time that state forces were accused of allegedly manipulating reports presented to the public.

In December 2019, the Philippine Army released an image of supposed communist rebels who surrendered their firearms but social media users noticed lapses in the photo.

The alleged rebels appeared to be floating and the rifles looked like they were hovering on the table.

A probe was later on ordered by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.