Thirteen members of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Cavite and Batangas have decided to return to the government fold after experiencing hardship, starvation and false hope under the terrorist group.
They officially laid down their arms on August 14 at the Office of the Presidential Adviser in Tanauan, Batangas and enrolled in the administration’s Enhanced Comprehensive Localalized Integration Program (E-CLIP).
Under the program, former rebels will be given livelihood and scholarship for their children to help them start a new life
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said past administrations had reintegration efforts as well, but were unable to sustain them.
“Kaya nagkaroon ng sama ng loob yung mga nagbalik loob. Yung iba sa kanila baka bumalik sa bundok dahil hindi natupad ng pamahalaan ang kanilang pangako,” explained Lorenzana.
(The rebel returnees felt bad. Some of them may have returned to the mountains because the government back then did not fulfill its promises.)
He said this time, the enhanced integration program of the Duterte administration brings together key government agencies to provide a comprehensive support to returnees. Among the major benefits they stand to enjoy is the housing program which is seen to support the initiative’s sustainability.
After taking an oath of allegiance, the former rebels were granted P60,000 each and the cash equivalent of surrendered firearms as seed money to help jumpstart their reintegration into society.
Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said that the E-CLIP and localized peace talks are more effective in achieving reconciliation than negotiating with the leadership of CPP-NPA abroad.
“Wala na tayong international o national peace talks dahil sa loob ng tatlumpung taon walang nangyari sa peace talks,” said Año. “Ang nangyari lang, nakawala ang kanilang mga kasama bumalik sa bundok at tuloy-tuloy ang labanan.”
The ex-NPA members will temporarily stay in a secured facility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to undergo orientation.
“Para dahan dahan silang makapamuhay ng normal. Kasi siyempre nung nadoon sila sa bundok halos araw-araw sila nag-move, palipat-lipat,” explained Major General Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the 2nd Infantry Batallion.
Secretary Lorenzana is hoping that more rebels will return to the government so that the country, unhampered by insurgency, can continue moving towards progress.
“Ang ating bayan hindi makaangat.… pag nawala ito [insurgency] siguro at bumaba na sila [rebels] at magawa natin silang useful sa society, lahat tayo ay uunlad din,” he said. – Sherwin Culubong