Meet Emerlina Botilla: ‘Former rebel’ turned gov’t supporter

By: Pegeen Maisie M. Sararaña - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | March 08,2022 - 05:52 PM

Emerlina Botilla, a former member of the New People’s Army

CEBU CITY, Philippines —For 15 years, Emerlina Botilla was a hardcore New People’s Army (NPA) rebel who was a commander of the rebel group. She was one of the pioneer members who roamed the mountains of Central Cebu spreading the beliefs and teachings of the armed revolution.

The same beliefs that she is now fighting against with the same amount of fierceness and determination.

She said she felt bad about how her former organization had abandoned her and her family when badly needed support. This made her decide to return to the fold of the government and embrace mainstream society.

Botilla and hundreds of former rebels are now one with the government in its fight against insurgency.

During her years as a rebel, Botilla said that their situation in the highlands was very hard as they worked almost 24 hours a day and have met several armed encounters against government forces since 1996.

“Didto sa kabukiran grabi kalisod ang amoang natagamtaman, adlaw gabie, kami nag lihok, 24 hours. Daghan kaayog gubat nga amoang na agian so nagsugod mi sa 1996 naglunsad mig mga tactical ofensiba, kami ang nag ransak sa municipal hall sa Sogod og encounters daghan, amoang gipang ransak nga municipal and detachment,” Botilla said.

“Usa ko ka commander sa New People’s Army, akong position naa nami sa committee, ang amoang central command kay Vicente Padayao Command,” she added.

In 1992, Botilla joined the NPA as an activist. She stopped in 1993 and rejoined the group in 1996. In 2000, she became very active and organized various groups in the mountain areas of Central Cebu.

“Kami ang na known nga kami gyud ang nag tukod sa mga asosasyon [Central Cebu]…Kami ang naa sa underground,” Botilla said.

“Pagka 2007, mao nato nga naabot mi sa Negros tungod sa pag abduct sa akoang anak, gidakop sa 17th IB. Pag nahitabo nga nasakit ko, walay klaro ang kahimutangan ngadto sa Negros, ako nag kasakit akoang anak sad nihunong og skwela. Nananghid mi sa sentro nga mubalik mi sa Cebu mao to nga gipadal-an mi og P2,500 unya diri mi nagtago tago sa bukiran sa Minglanilla hangtod sa naabot mi sa Cebu City,” she said.

When they went back to Cebu, they asked for help from their organization, but no help came. Reminiscing the sacrifices she made for the group since 1992, she said she was very hurt that the group she was willing to give her own life to, has abandoned her.

“Pag abot namo diha, nag reklao mi nga magpatabang mi pero karon wa naman silay ikatabang namo, diha ko nahiubos sa organization. Kay ngano man? Grabi ang amoang sacrifice gikan sa 1992 hangtod 2007 and 2008 unya ingun ana lang ang ilang gibaws sa amoa unya wa na silay ikatabang,” she added.

On Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at least a hundred ‘former rebels’ joined hands to support the government’s war against the insurgency in a program called Sambayanan Call for Peace, Unity, and Reconciliation in Barangay Mabolo.

The said activity was also graced by “Ka Eric”Almendras, a former NPA cadre, who said that the organization of former rebels only reflects that there is still life outside the NPA.

“Marami ang sumusurrender na nakikita nila na pwede pala kami mamuhay outside the CPP NPA NDF na i-inspire sila. Pangalawa, naipapakita nila ang katotohanan na hindi pala totoo na pinapatay kami ng sundalo at pulis. Hindi rin totoo pala na tinotorture kami at hindi rin totoo na walang buhay pag nakalabas sa [grupo],” Almendras said.

The government, on the other hand, continues to provide livelihood programs to rebel returnees who have embraced the new trust that the government has once again provided them.     /rcg


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