MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon, Feb. 22 - Seventeen former New People's Army (NPA) rebels completed on Saturday, February 22, the "Primerong Kurso sa Pagbag-ong Kinabuhi (Social Reintegration Course-First part)" in Camp Osito Bahian, Malaybalay City.
Six of the former rebels are from Misamis Oriental, while the remaining 11 are from Bukidnon.
Capt. Ryan Layug, former 403rd Infantry Brigade spokesman and course director of "Primerong Kurso sa Pagbag-ong Kinabuhi-Level 3 (PKPK-3)," said that Resylyn Pardo alias Jamby, Guerilla Front 6 Secretary of South Bukidnon, was part of the group of political instructors, squad leaders, platoon medic, and commanding officers of the CPP-NPA's Front Operational Command.
He said this is the first part of the mainstreaming process for former rebels that aims to slowly return them to their old self as God's loving children and God-centered individuals. They will undergo further training programs in halfway houses managed by local government units, which is part of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
"We believe in the kindness of their hearts before they were radicalized by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) through the New People's Army. Their innocence was abused. They were made to believe that bearing arms and waging war against the government is the way to achieve their means," Layug said.
The PKPK-3 started on February 5 and ended last Saturday. During the 17-day course, participants and couples were also made to experience driving farm tractor as they are introduced to high-value crop production.
Col. Ferdinand Barandon, the newly installed 403rd Bde Commander and the invited keynote speaker commended the graduates and urged everyone to continue winning the peace not only in Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin, and Cagayan de Oro that the 403rd Bde covers, but in the entire country as guided by President Rodrigo Duterte's whole-of-nation approach.
Resylyn Pardo on her impression during the closing ceremony said "Duha ang akong gibati ron, kalipay ug kamingaw. Kalipay tungod kay nailhan nako ug naila-ila ang mga tinood nga sundalo nga gabuwis sa ilang kinabuhi para sa katawhan ug nabati nako ang tinood nga kagawasan. Kamingaw tungod kay nanibag-o ko sa akong pang adlaw-adlaw nga routine, pero gusto nako nga mahimong ingon-ani na ang akong kinabuhi (I have dual emotions at the moment, happiness and loneliness. Happiness as I have finally met real soldiers that risked their lives for the people and that I have finally felt the real freedom. Loneliness as I felt strange on my daily routine, but I wanted this to continue in my life)."
Layug also narrated that before Valentine's Day, married ladies confessed to lady facilitators that never in their entire lives had they experienced being given flowers, being serenaded, and danced with someone as NPA do not allow open expression of love-including holding hands. It was indeed a very romantic night when 403rd Bde workforce prepared a simple Valentines Day celebration, where ladies were surprised by their husbands with flowers and sweet dance while being serenaded by the singing soldiers.
Col. Barandon reserved his tears of joy as he said the occasion is meant to be joyful in celebration of renewed life.
"If there is anyone else that wanted peace foremost, it is a soldier. We are directly affected by conflict, but it is our duty to protect people from peace spoilers," he said.
He thanked the former rebel facilitators (PEACE and Kauban sa Kalinaw), youth facilitators (POINTY Bukidnon), and soldier facilitators (403Bde, 58IB, 8IB & 88IB) for their efforts and diligence for the past 17 days.
"I was then a young Company Commander that covers San Fernando, Bukidnon. Seeing you today after almost three decades and hearing your messages longing to live a peaceful life with your family melts my heart, it is filled with gratitude that you have finally returned home," Col Barandon said during the PKPK 3 closing ceremony. (403rd Inf Bde, 4ID, PA/ PIA Bukidnon)