As many as 19 former members of the rebel groups were vaccinated against COVID-19 in Impasugong, Bukidnon, the military said Sunday.
According to the 8th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army, in collaboration with the municipal health officer of Impasugong, the first dose of Sinovac vaccine was given to 17 former members of the Communist Party Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). At the same time, 2, in turn, completed their vaccinations.
Alias ”Ambo,” one of the alleged former rebels, is grateful for the vaccine given to them, 8IB said in a statement.
“This is a proof that our government is serious in its vow to help those who will return to the folds of the law. I also believe that we should not be afraid of the vaccines because the government will not give it to us if it will harm us,” said “Ambo,” who is also said to be a COVID-19 survivor, in the local language.
Vaccination of former rebels is one way they can return with protection against COVID-19 to their communities and families, according to Lt. Col. Edgardo Talaroc Jr., commander of the 8th IB.
The CPP had earlier warned NPA fighters against the military’s offer of vaccines in exchange for surrender.
Former NPA rebels vaccinated in Bukidnon
The CPP believes that the vaccine offer is part of the government’s ongoing “suppression” of “insurgency” or insurgency.
In July 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte said New People’s Army (NPA) could also get the COVID-19 vaccine if they would “stop fighting” the police and military amid the pandemic.
“If you stop fighting for a while during the period or until December, kasi my soldiers will be busy monitoring, supervising, ‘wag lang niyong galawin, puwede kayong sumali, pumila doon,” Duterte said.
“And even if you announce that you are an NPA, it’s okay. Wala munang… pagamot ka muna, pa-vaccinate ka, para mahusay kang lumaban sa puwersa ko,” he added.
According to the latest government records, there are already 28.7 million fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the country. About 33.7 million received the first twelve.