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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sorsogon rebel returnee brings her wayward heart home


CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – There are corrupt and corrupted men even outside the government, rebel returnee Loradel Esquilon came to know. This knowledge and her experiences caused her to formally shed her position in the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sorsogon September of 2013
Esquilon, now 30, formerly known as Ka Sisa/Ka Megan, confided that she was the logistics and finance staff (S4) of Komiteng Probinsyal (KOMPROB) in Sorsogon.
She used to oversee the flow of the system of collection of revolutionary taxes in the province where she and her subordinates would gather money every month from businessmen, construction companies and government officials. She joined the rebel unit in 2005 after a relative succeeded in convincing her of the ideals that the group was fighting for.
She said she left a promising career as a caregiver in Metro Manila in order to join the NPAs. She was only 20.
A daughter of farmers, she joined the NPA after she was promised monetary support for her family and an avenue to express her anger against the government.
She said she underwent several trainings and teachings before she became a “trusted follower” of their leader, Andres Hubilla also known as Ka Magno. Ka Magno was the secretary of KOMPROB, Sorsogon.
Esquilon revealed that she and at least three of her comrades were entrusted with the task of collecting revolutionary taxes and then turning these over to their local NPA leaders.
“What they do with the money is a mystery to me,” she said.  “I believe they pocket much of it because we never get any assistance from them.”
She said at one time, she received more or less P3 million in revolutionary taxes that she then gave Hubilla.
They were able to collect more money during election period from the imposition of Permit to Campaign (PTCs) on local politicians.
She said that apart from her, only Hubilla and a certain Ka Anton, know of the amount of money they collect as revolutionary tax. None of the NPA rebels on the field know of the amount of money the unit has.
“I do not remember us benefiting from those collections. Those of us who work on the ground beg for food from residents in the areas we cover. Our firearms come from fallen Army soldiers from encounters,” she said.
She said that she was thankful for the helpful residents because they sometimes suffered starvation in the field.
Esquilon was also entrusted to make financial transactions for the unit, even going to Metro Manila to deal with finances there.
She turned over a list of the establishments and government officials who regularly gave their share of revolutionary taxes along with her M16 rifle when she surrendered in 2013. These were taken by the intelligence and investigation divisions of the Army for further probe.
Esquillon, now married and a mother of two, recalled that she was lucky to have warded away repeated sexual advances by top NPA leaders while she was still with the organization.
She felt sorry for two of her other female comrades whom she heard were raped.
She said that Hubilla tried to rape her several times, including one night when he was very drunk.
“I thought they respected women. That’s what they led me to believe. At first, I thought the stories were just stories. I never thought it would happen to me too,” she added.
She said that she rarely saw the other women in the organization because they were distributed to other areas in Sorsogon.
One day, she received a handwritten letter from one of them, a woman she only knows as Ka Emma. She was already in hiding from her comrades since December 2012.
In her letter, Esquilon recalled that Ka Emma lamented of the sexual abuses and deprivation she was experiencing from other rebel leaders.
“She and I went through the same ordeal. I felt for her. It was the final straw for me. After that, I decided to surrender,” she said.
She added that she never really wanted to become a full-pledged rebel back in 2005 but the NPA leaders threatened to hunt her down, gang rape her and kill her should she try to escape.
Esquilon voluntarily turned herself over to the elements of 31st Infantry Battalion in Juban, Sorsogon.
The unit facilitated the formal surrender and presentation of NPA “amazona” to Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).
She surrendered with the help of a friend whom she entrusted to take her to the military. She had been planning to surrender since 2009 but was too scared to leave.
In 2014, Esquilon received psychological therapy from Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The rebel returnee and her family now reside in a safe place protected from possible threats.
Under the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s Guns for Peace Program, she received the amount of P50,000 for surrendering her weapon as part of the firearms remuneration package which was given to her before 2014 ended.
She also received help for her livelihood from DSWD and other partner organizations which amounted to another P50,000.
“I believe that NPA members are victims of misguided belief due to their disadvantaged condition,” Brigadier General Yerson Depayso, commander of the Philippine Army’s 9ID said.

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