By Chito Chavez
In the wake of the Holy Week attacks allegedly perpetuated by communist rebels in Davao City, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge (OIC) Eduardo M. Año asked them to show genuine sincerity if they want to pursue the peace talks with the government.
He also demanded that the rebel groups should stop all forms of hostilities, extortion activities and burning of construction or farm equipment and instead build mutual trust with the government to achieve genuine peace.
“You cannot demand peace yet do violence. Peace negotiations require an enabling environment for your side and the government panel to hear out each other and arrive at sincere agreements,” Año said.
He insisted that there is no use talking peace if government forces and civilians are dying with the rebel groups continuing to commit lawlessness.
Such move by the rebel forces according to Ano is contrary to getting back to the peace table since talking peace needs confidence-building measures.
The DILG Chief urged the NDF-CPP-NPA (National Democratic Front – Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army) “to reciprocate the sincerity of the government and others concerned such as the Royal Norwegian Government and at least 60 members of the House of Representatives both calling for President Duterte to revive peace talks.”
Nonetheless, Ano assured that with or without peace talks, the Duterte administration welcomes with open arms all rebels who will lay down their arms and return to mainstream society.
He added that “among the proof of the government’s sincerity is the DILG’s Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).”
The E-CLIP facilitates the mainstreaming of former NPA rebels and Militia ng Bayan as productive citizens. The program also compensates and remunerates all turned-in firearms.
A former rebel gets an immediate assistance in the amount of P15,000 for mobilization expenses, livelihood assistance in the amount of P50,000, skills training, shelter and legal assistance, among others.
For the past three years, the DILG has provided financial assistance to hundreds of former communist rebels. P59.68-million has been utilized for immediate assistance to 471 former rebels, while 459 got livelihood assistance, 361 with reintegration assistance, and 132 were given firearm renumeration.
Forty-five million pesos was also spent on construction of halfway houses for rebel-surrenderees in nine provinces: Kalinga and Mountain Province, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and North Cotabato.
A halfway house is a temporary residence that serves as the processing center for former rebels. It could be a new structure that is established in provinces or highly urbanized cities that have expressed the need for such facility.
Just recently the President approved the release of almost half a billion pesos to support the E-CLIP, enough to support the more than 1,000 expected surrenderees for 2018.
“We call on the families, relatives and friends of rebels to help us convince them to go down from the mountains and take this life-changing opportunity,” he noted.
As for the police and soldiers, the DILG manages the KIA/WIA (Killed-in-Action/Wounded-in-A