Top rebel leader Alimar Libuna Toting is looking forward to spending Christmas with his family and a 4-year-old son.
Capt. Orchie Bobis, spokesperson of the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBDe), said the former leader of the New People’s Army’ (NPA) Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC) in Palawan is wishing to spend Christmas for the first time with his young son whom he has not seen for a long time.
He is also keen on catching up with his 56-year-old mother Yolly and his other siblings.
“If there is anything na nilo-look forward niya after niya sumuko, ‘yon yong maka-spend time siya ulit sa nanay niya at mga kapatid na hindi nakita ng mahabang panahon, and spend this Christmas for the first time kasama ‘yong anak niyang lalaki na huli niyang nakita ay baby pa. Desperado siyang makita ang kanyang anak,” Bobis said.
The boy is Toting’s son by his party wife Jenny Ann Bautista (Ka Helen) who was among the seven captured at a checkpoint in Barangay San Jose on October 4.
She is currently detained at the Puerto Princesa City Jail (PPCJ) for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Bobis said before Toting arrived at the 3MBDe on the night of November 5, he had been asking curious questions about what his son is like and what he loves to do.
He also asked about the health of his mother, whom he last saw a few years ago in Sofronio Española.
“‘Yong anak niya talaga ang isa sa dahilan kung bakit siya sumuko. Gusto niyang makita, makausap, makalaro kasi nga baby pa noong huling makita. Baka hindi siya makilala, worried din siya,” Bobis said.
READ RELATED NEWS: Palawan’s top NPA leader surrenders
Toting said he came to the province in 2008 and worked as an employee in Agumil Philippines, Inc., a palm oil company that operates in southern Palawan.
In the rebel movement, he started as part of the “white area support group” before rising to the ranks as a “simpleng mandirigma” (ordinary squad member) in 2009 and further going up the leadership ladder in 2011.
It is in the BVC where he met and married Bautista, who later gave birth to a son he only saw twice.
“Dalawang beses ko lang nakita ‘yong anak ko. Gusto ko makasama siya ngayong pasko,” Toting said.
“Ang advice kasi sa akin baka gawin siyang tracer kaya pinadala ko sa malayo. ‘Yong anak ko, doon ako talaga nakumbinsi kasi ilang taon kong hindi nakikita. Tatay tayo, may kahinaan tayo pagdating sa anak. Isa talaga ‘yon na nagtulak sa akin para ituloy na ‘yong ilang beses ko na pagtangka na magpahinga at sumuko,” he added.
Toting, who is a native of Magpet town in Northern Cotabato, said he sent his son outside of Palawan to prevent government troops from using him.
Toting said when he saw his son, he could not understand what he felt. He said he was nervous and happy at the same time upon seeing the boy.
For the first time, he hugged him without the need to hide in the mountains.
“Hindi ko maintindihan ‘yong naramdaman kong saya. Niyakap ko ‘yong aking anak, kasama ko siya sa pagkain… kapag nakikita ako nagmamano sa akin, hindi ko maintindihan ‘yong tuwa na nararamdaman ko kasama siya dito sa loob ng Brigade. For the first time, niyakap ko siya ng hindi nagtatago,” he said.
Yolly said she wanted her son to surrender so he can clear his name and express sincere remorse for what he had done as command leader of the BVC.
She said she can no longer endure the worry she feels every time she hears something about the NPA, especially if it is about encounters with government troops.
Yolly said Toting is a “principled son”, which is the reason why she had a hard time convincing him in the past to go down and give himself up peacefully. She said she has not seen him in four years.
“Gusto ko nang sumuko siya para malinis naman ‘yong dinadaanan. Ayokong marami akong problema, masakit sa ulo. Mabait siyang bata kaya nakumbinsi ko. Mino-monitor ko siya lagi, gusto ko magbaba na siya para may katuwang naman ako sa paghahanapbuhay. Ayaw na niya na talaga, pero may prinsipyo siya rin kasi na kanya kaya matagal ko siyang napababa,” she said.
Victim of lies no more
Toting said he and the rest of the members of the BVC were all victims of the lies of the NPA, including being “the strength and power of the masses” that would reverse government injustices.
In Palawan, they were made to believe that they need to fight against mining operations, land grabbing or large companies that take over the lands of the indigenous peoples (IPs), non-delivery of basic social and health services, and failure to deliver justice to whom it is due.
“Nasasamantala ‘yong isyu tungkol dyan sa hanap-buhay. Na-recruit ako nagtratrabaho ako sa palm oil company, tapos nasasamantala ‘yong isyu na matagal ‘yong sahod, maliit ‘yong sahod, tapos napakahirap mag-trabaho. Kaya kami noon na hindi nakapag-isip ay nahikayat na mukhang totoo ‘yong sinasabi ng NPA na napapabayaan nga daw ng gobyerno ang mga maralita. ‘Yon ang props na binibitawan para makuha ang simpatiya ng mga tao,” he said.
Toting was straightforward in admitting that he now regrets being part of the NPA, particularly because of the past orders he received to “hunt and kill the enemies”.
“Ang pinagsisisihan ko ay ‘yong hindi hundred percent ‘yong — papatay ka ng tao na hindi hundred percent ‘yong sigurado ka kung ano ‘yong kaso niya. Kasi ibinababa lang naman ‘yong order, hindi sure ‘yong mga operatiba na kasi ‘yong taong ‘yan ay ganito ‘yan,” he said.
Toting said their list of people who are targets for assassination mostly include police and military personnel, including a politician who is “corrupt and oppressive”, but he declined to name him.
Mining and palm oil companies are also on their list because they do not behave according to the principles of equality and justice where the indigenous peoples (IPs) are concerned.
He said that in the movement, it was hard for him not to follow orders because his sincerity as a leader will be doubted, and he will be accused of being a DPA (deep penetration agent).
Toting said it was always against his conscience to shoot it out with government troops, but did not have any way out.
“Susunod ka. Kapag opisyal ka kasi, nandyan ka sa kilusan… kapag sinuway mo ‘yong atas, maaari kang ma-deactivate o puwede kang paghinalaan na ganito ka, baka DPA ka. Kaya medyo labag sa kalooban na makipag-barilan ka sa mga sundalo, hindi mo lubos nauuwanaan kung ano ba talaga ang kaso ng sundalo bakit ko siya bibirahin?” he said.
Toting who has close relatives in the army, marines, and the police, said he wanted to become a soldier when he was in high school.
He said he was supposed to join the Philippine Army after graduating, but his height was not enough to qualify.
On November 7, Toting was presented to Governor Jose Alvarez, the chair of the Palawan Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in MIMAROPA, as voluntary surrenderee, ending years of leading the BVC.
Presented along with him by 3rd MBDE commander Brig. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan and Western Command (WESCOM) commander Vice Adm. Rene Medina were Glenmar Libuna Toting (Ka Resmi), Jurin Libuna Aldea (Ka Wilme), and Soren Libuna Aldea (Ka Justine), who are squad members; Melody Libuna Toting (Ka Honey/Hana), who served as a medical officer; Vicente Sonio Lachica (Ka Troy, Andre, Harold, and Rejon), who was the liaison officer; Arnold Atres (Ka Randy), and Janeth Ortega.
All served under the Kilusang Larangang Guerilla (KLG)-South and the Provincial Operational Command of the BVC in the Sub-Regional Military Area (SRMA) 4E of the NPA.
Atres was a member of the People’s Intelligence Network (PIN), while Ortega was the leader of the Ganap na Samahan ng Masa (GSM) in the Maasin-Calasaguen area in Brooke’s Point.
Also presented where their firearms: two M16 rifles with two magazines and 10 rounds of ammunition, two 9mm Tokarev and Norinco pistols, and a Spas3 12-gauge shotgun.
Gaerlan said they joined Toting in surrendering peacefully due to the difficulties they have encountered in evading the sustained joint law enforcement operations by the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support (PLEDS) Cluster under the PTF-ELCAC.
“Kamatayan o pagsuko lang ang way out, kaya mas pinili niya ang sumuko at makita ang anak niya kesa mamatay siya at masayang ang buhay niya ng hindi nakakapiling ang anak. His voluntary surrender and the others are proof that we are doing the right thing in dealing with the CTGs and in joining efforts with other sectors to end the conflict”, Gaerlan said earlier in an interview with Palawan News.
Toting and his group surrendered following military negotiations headed by the Joint Intelligence Task Group West (JITG West) under the Joint Task Force Peacock (JTF Peacock) in Palawan which Gaerlan leads.
PTF-ELCAC assures help
Alvarez assured Toting and the other surrenderees that the provincial ELCAC will help them now that they have given up their arms to renew their lives in the fold of the law.
“For as long as you give up your arms, we are willing to help the families, the immediate relatives. We have enough funds in the provincial government to start new lives for them. The military as well will secure them and provide them with all assurances that they will not be harmed by external forces just to disrupt the better arrangement that has been arranged,” he said.
“I am glad that you are here today. For the returnees, welcome to civilization again and hopefully, you can still convince other people that you know who can be together with us because Palawan has a bright future. We are now more than two million tourists a year, which will redound to economic benefits not only in the tourist areas but also in the barangays, the puroks that will produce the food in order to feed the tourists,” Alvarez added.
Alvarez said Toting’s surrender means the “continuance” of progress and development in the province, which can be enjoyed by Palaweños, the tourists, and even the rebel returnees.
Toting said he believes this and that the provincial government is serious in changing the lives of those who still live in poverty. He said that before he surrendered, he had already witnessed the provincial government going up to destitute areas in southern Palawan to help the people.
“Naniniwala naman ako, seryoso naman sa tingin ko ang gobyerno na magbigay ng tulong, lalung-lalo na ‘yong provincial government na pumapasok na talaga doon sa mga liblib na lugar para magbigay ng proyekto sa mga mahihirap,” he said.
Toting who is being implicated in the murder of Gilbert Baaco in Barangay Barong-Barong, Brooke’s Point; Police Senior Master Sergeant Nelzahib Aizo in Brgy. Plaridel, Aborlan, and Corporal Alfred John de Leon in Brgy. Tagusao, Quezon, among others, can be helped if he will assist in the investigation to close the cases.
Provincial legal officer Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta said rebel surrenderees who have cases filed against them have to face them, but in the case of Toting who can help in the investigation, he can be provided with immunity and protection under the Department of Justice (DOJ), including the other surrenderees.
“Lahat naman tayo kung may pananagutan sa lipunan, kailangan nating harapin ito. Ngunit kung lumabas naman na makakatulong si Ka Allan sa imbestigasyon, and ultimately sa closure ng cases ay puwede namin siyang tulungan para mapabuti ang kanyang kalagayan. Kooperasyon lang niya ang kailangan. Ito ang magde-determine ng kanyang patutunguhan,” Matta said.
Getting an official pardon is also a possibility, but the PTF-ELCAC will still have to study this.
“Posibilidad ‘yan, pero sa ngayon pag-aaralan muna namin,” he said.