MANILA - The surrender of former communist rebels along with their firearms is real, the Philippine Army said Monday following social media backlash on a doctored photo released by a military unit last week.
"The surrenders are authentic, the 2 photos separately are authentic. The only problem is they were merged together," Philippine Army public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told ANC's Headstart.
"They wanted to show that there are firearms and that there are rebels that surrendered. This is because in our enhance comprehensive local integration program (ECLIP), there's remuneration when firearms are surrendered."
Zagala said rebels could receive an immediate financial aid of P15,000 upon surrendering, with up to P50,000 livelihood assistance and would also receive cash for giving up firearms.
"They are real surrenders, there are 306 surrenders in Masbate. We standby our units, especially in their efforts for local peace negotiation for surrenders," he said.
"I think the 9th Infantry Division immediately recognized their mistake and already apologized. There was no intention to deceive nor to lie. Although this was a mistake, it’s still a manifestation of our commitment to a peaceful solution to the insurgency."
The Army's 9th Infantry Division earlier apologized for the photo release, saying that the manipulation of the image was to "ensure the safety" of the surrenderers and their families.