By Jennifer C. Tilos
Four former rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) from the towns of Mabinay and Zamboanguita received financial assistance amounting to P312,000 under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
Each ex-rebel received P78,000 representing P15,000 cash and check of P50,000 livelihood aid plus an additional of P10,000 as the personal support of Gov. Roel Degamo and P3,000 from the province’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS).
The formal turnover of the cash and livelihood assistance was led by Chair of the Task Force Balik Loob of the Department of National Defense (DND) Usec. Reynaldo Mapagu along with Degamo, Commander of Central command of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, and Department of Interior of Local Government (DILG) Provincial Director Dennis Quiñones.
The government officials recognized the former rebels’ decision to return to mainstream society and formally welcomed them to renew their lives.
Clement said the former rebels were victims of the Communist Terrorist Groups’ (CTGs) “deceptive strategy.”
“Instead of being in school and taking care of their family, they were tricked to join the combat in the mountains,” he said.
The AFP aims to work with local government units together with development partners and private sectors to achieve holistic program towards peace, development, and governance to give the needed solutions for the residents in the province, added Clement.
Degamo called on other NPAs to surrender to the authorities and take advantage of the government’s programs.
He vowed that the province will add P50,000 financial support on top of the E-CLIP assistance, especially to those who will bring in their firearms.
“I reiterate that we cannot win peace by bullets or armed struggle and because of the false belief that NPAs give to members to go against the government,” said Degamo.
He congratulated the rebel returnees for their willingness and courage in surrendering to the government.
“Peace and order are important because without it we cannot fully develop and progress, thus I want the people of this province to be healthy, happy and peaceful,” the governor said.
For his part, Mapagu urged other NPA members to return to the fold of the law and avail of the benefits of the government’s program.
“It is high time to end this communist insurgency problem as the government is serious in the program to win them back and ensure their well-being to become productive Filipino citizens,” said Mapagu.
The rebel returnees shared some stories of their plights and thanked the government for the opportunity to change their lives and the chance to live peacefully with their families.
Mapagu reported that in 2018, a total of 7,797 formers rebels surrendered or “nagbalik loob” and of that number, 1,700 were original members of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NPA and the rest were Militia Ng Bayan or paramilitaries and all of them were given assistance.
E-CLIP is one of the flagship programs of the Duterte administration that seek to address social healing and national unity towards the higher objective of having just and lasting peace.
It aims to provide social equity to former members of the NPA, CPP, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the Militia ng Bayan to reintegrate them into mainstream society.