PALIMBANG, Sultan Kudarat, August 10 (PIA) - Sixteen former rebels (FR) who are all members of the Indigenous People (IP) in this town received financial assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office (DSWD) XII in a turnover ceremony Friday held at the Philippine Army's 37th Infantry Battalion based in the area.
Arthur John Gabucan, Officer-in-charge of the Promotive Division of the DSWD XII said the former rebels will be enrolled in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) since they belong to the poorest of the poor.
They will also be included in the agency's cash for work program as immediate shortt term employment intervention. They will also be included in the list of prospective beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) XII Regional Director Eduardo Marguez disclosed that aside from the financial aid from the DSWD, the former rebels also received food packs through the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC).
They are also set to receive package of assistance from the different government agencies under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) which includes livelihood asistance and skills training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to help them gain new knowledge that may help them in uplifting their quality of life as they start anew.
"Hindi po hanggang dyan lamang ang inyong matatanggap o matatamasa sa pagkakataong ito, sabi nga ng ating DSWD marami pang proyekto, hindi lamang DSWD nga pala ang tutulong sa inyo mayroon tayong skills training na ipaparating dito. Ang TESDA po ay nangako na magkakaroon ng agripreneur training dito sa inyo at sa ating mga kasundalohan... kung saan yung mga former rebels at yung ating kasundalohan ay mag aaral kung paano maging agriculturist, kung paano mag tanim," Marquez said.
The official added that the only requirement of TESDA is to have a demo farm where they could plant during the 10-day training. The DA, he said, will provide the needed technology.
Lt. Col. Allen Van Estrera, Battalion Commander of the 37th IB assured that they are ready to host the conduct of the agripreneur training.
He said they have already identified a farm near the vicinity of the battalion headquarters which they could use, but they still need to seek permission from the local government.
Aside from the agripreneur training, Marquez explained that the TESDA has training for former rebels who want to pursue driving as a means of living in coordination with the Land Transportation Office. TESDA will teach them how to drive and will send the list of those who completed the training to the LTO for their drivers' license.
Marguez underscored the need to help the former rebels. He admitted that indigenous people are the most vulnerable sector for exploitation by the communist group because they are gullible as they live in remote, mountainous places that are considered as "forgotten by the government."
"Karamihan sa mga armadong NPA ay mga IPs...kasi daw po ito ang mga tao na nasa kataas taasan ng bukid na kinalimotan na ng gobyerno at yun ngayon ang mga pagkakataon na nakita ng NPA o mga komunistang grupo. Kawawa po ang ating mga IPs, kaya po sa ngayon kami ay nagpapasalmat na nandito kayo makakaasa kayo na hind kayo pababayaan at tutulongan kayo ng gobyerno."
Bidoy, 41, one of the former rebels who received assistance shared his experience how he was enticed and got recruited by the communist group.
"I have five children and life was extremely hard. We could not transport our farm produce to the market because the roads were impassable, thus, they were left rotten in the fields. They told me I will be paid Php2,000 monthly and they will send my children to school, but those were just unfulfilled promises," he said in the vernacular.
On normal days he worked as a cook. However, if there are military operations he would be forced to bring firearms and faced the government troops.
Meanwhile, Marquez revealed that the government is also planning to place the 16 former rebels in a halfway home to undergo "deradicalization process." They will also receive trainings and other activities that will prepare them in their reintegration to the society while they are under government's custody.
The RTF-ELCAC, he said, is also looking for other immediate interventions as they have now identified 162 priority barangays in the region. Most of the former rebels in the priority barangays are asking for road projects which he admitted will open the gates to development in their respective localities.
Ines, 60, expressed hope that once the road project will be implemented in their barangay people will not be convinced to join the communist group.
He said that maybe the government has always been there for them, while lamenting that those carrying the message were not able to explain it to them properly, for failing to represent their voices.
Marguez urged the 16 rebels to convince their former comrades to return to the folds of law and avail of the government programs.
He also asked them not to harm government soldiers, as they are only doing their job to visit them in the mountains, and inform them of the government programs.
"Ito na ngayon ang bagong gyera, noon ang gyera ay mga putokan ngayon hindi na. Ang ating mag kasundalohan ay umaakyat sa bundok, nakikipag usap sa inyo para alamin kung ano ang problema ninyo; at pag naibaba ng kasundalohan ay napapag-usapan po namin sa Regional Task Force." (PGFruylan/PIA-Gensan)