Rebel returnees surrender their arms for a new chance at a better life.
BICOL, Philippines (UPDATED) — A total of 122 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have surrendered to authorities in Masbate.
They belonged to the rebel units operating in the areas of Sorsogon and Masbate.
They were presented to Secretary of National Defensse Delfin Lorenzana during the ceremonial granting of livelihood assistance to former rebels on Tuesday (October 9) under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the Duterte administration.
“Target namin kasi dito i-improve ang peace and order. Iyan talaga all over. Actually iyon naman ang kanyang utos not only in one province kundi all over the country,” Lorenzana said citing the directive from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Female returnees were given sewing machines while male returnees received welding machines for their start up business.
They will get training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) on welding machine skills, small engine operations for males and rug-making for females.
The local government, meanwhile, announced that rebel returnees who are members of the E-CLIP will have their respective housing units by next year.
“If these things will materialize we can achieve peace not only in the province but in the entire country,” said Governor Antonio Kho Jr. of Masbate.
Among the rebel returnees was “Lyn” who had been a member of the NPA for two years.
She recalled how miserable her life was when she started serving the communist group at the young age of 14.
Because she is a natural achiever, she had once been entrusted with the group’s budget.
“Kalimitan po pinagbabawalan at saka pinagduduhan po ang bawa’t isa sa amin,”she said.
“Lyn” said she is now enjoying her new-found freedom though she regrets losing a part of her youth to communist service.
“Dito po nagagawa ko yung nagagawa ko pero po doon hindi po kasi… nagsisi rin ako don kasi hindi ako nakapag-aral,” she lamented.
Temporarily, all 122 rebel returnees are staying in halfway houses located within the compound of the Masbate Provincial Police Office.
Based on national statistics, the Bicol region holds the second largest number of rebel returnees in the country next to Davao province in Mindanao. — Marje Pelayo (with reports from Allan Manansala)