IMPASUG-ONG, Bukidnon, May 24 - The Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) and Impasugong local government unit (LGU) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony to start the construction of a P5 million rehab center or Halfway House for the ex-New People's Army (NPA) rebels.
Located in Magbuliga Development Complex, Poblacion, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, the Halfway House will rise in a one-hectare land donated by Impasugong LGU.
In a statement, Engr. Carmelo Enrique Libot, provincial director of DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) in Bukidnon said this structure will house former rebels (FRs) who returned to the folds of the law.
He clarified that the facility will provide services such as psychological and psychosocial counseling, livelihood training, and capacity building activities to help the FRs cope with their confidence and freedom.
"This activity is a genuine proof that the government is very serious in helping out our former rebels. This is not just an effort of DILG, this is not just an effort of the municipality, the province, the Army, and PNP, but it is the effort of all of us. This is our way of supporting the government's 'whole-of-nation approach' to finally end insurgency," Libot said.
Lt. Col. Edgardo V. Talaroc Jr, 8IB commanding officer, further explained that the halfway house, staffed by counselors and aides, would assist the FRs in preparing for their reintegration into the mainstream society.
Impasugong town mayor Anthony Uy, who also graced the event, said "Working together is the key to our success. Without proper coordination and link up, this halfway house will not be realized. This initiative will surely bolster our efforts to encourage the NPA rebels to lay down their arms and avail of the government's Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
Meanwhile, Col. Ferdinand Barandon, 403rd brigade commander who is also the Co-chairman of Bukidnon ECLIP Committee said that the Army and the Department of Agriculture would establish an agricultural farm for self-sufficiency while the ex-rebels make their transition back into community life.
Reports showed that to date, a total of 524 FRs, both regular and "Milisyang Bayan (NPA supporters)," returned to the folds of the law and their benefits are now being processed by the Bukidnon E-CLIP committee.
"I am so happy. God is so good that amidst the COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic, great things happen. We only dreamed of this many years ago but now we are getting started. After seven months from now, this rehab center will be completed and will cater FRs from around the province. I visualize that in this center, many lives will be transformed and families will be reunited. We will together bring back the dignity of a human being taken by the NPA from our fellow Filipinos," Col. Barandon said. (Rene M. Belmonte Jr, CMO 403rd Bde, PA/PIA Bukidnon)