By Chito Chavez
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the passionate side of the Duterte regime shone the brightest as benefits were provided to Communist rebels who have returned to the government’s fold.
Saying that the Communist movement was on a sharp decline, Año disclosed that 8,367 communist rebels have surrendered to the government from July 1, 2016 to December 28, 2018.
Of this number, Año noted that 1,117 former rebels have been granted benefits under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), one of the main components of the Interagency Task Force Balik Loob Program.
He added the government’s program has been gaining a lot of ground in many parts of the country and has encouraged more Communist rebels to lay down their arms because of the promise of a better life in the mainstream.
“Lives are being changed by the E-CLIP program. With more than a thousand former rebels (FRs) who have received financial assistance last year, we hope that their testimonies will serve as an encouragement for more communist rebels to surrender,” Año said.
Of the 8,367 rebel surrenderers, DILG reports revealed that 1,207 were armed New People’s Army (NPA) regulars while the rest were Militia ng Bayan, Sangay ng Partido sa Lokal, and underground mass activists.
As of December 21, 2018, the DILG report added that 1,117 former rebels were provided with financial assistance, many of whom came from the Davao Region where 361 became beneficiaries of the program, followed by Soccskargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) with 166 recipients, and Caraga with 149.
The interagency Task Force Balik Loob is led by DILG Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu and serves as the central coordinating body in supervising the government’s reintegration efforts for the members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and their immediate family members.
Año underscored that “the facts on the ground are undisputed: the Communist movement is in sharp decline and the only one who refuses to accept the truth is Joma Sison who is enjoying his life in Europe and has been out of touch with reality for decades’’.
“We must remember that Joma is a master-propagandist. He will twist facts to suit his own reality. Hindi niya kasi matanggap na nagtatagumpay ang programa ng gobyerno para sa mga rebelde at maraming rebelde na ang gustong magbagong-buhay (He cannot accept the success of the government’s programs for the rebels as more rebels want to turn a new leaf in their lives),” he added.
The DILG chief asserted that “to arrest the decline of the Communist movement, Joma and his minions has been clamoring for the resumption of the Oslo peace talks’’ saying that is the “best way to stop the hemorrhage’’.
“They were already given their chance and blew it, the train has left the station,” he insisted.
The DILG chief said the recent creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict by President Duterte will lead to more rebel surrenders because of its focus on localized peace engagements.
Meanwhile, the DILG said 34 provinces and cities were also provided with financial assistance amounting to a total of P170 million for the construction of halfway houses through the program as of December 19, 2018.
“Halfway houses serve as temporary shelters for the rehabilitation and healing sessions of former rebels going through the process of reintegration,’’ the DILG noted.
With the influx of Communist rebels giving up their way of life, Año said the government, through TFBL, is “racing to speed up the processing of the FRs.
“We are working double time with the other government agencies included in TFBL as well as our regional offices to fast track the processing of FRs so they can avail of the financial, livelihood, and housing assistance of the E-CLIP,” he noted.
The DILG explained that E-CLIP offers assistance to former members of the NPA and Militia ng Bayan (MB), including their immediate family members, who have surrendered to the government.
It added that E-CLIP provides former rebels (FRs) with P15,000 immediate cash assistance, P50,000 livelihood assistance, firearms compensation, psycho-social support, skills training, shelter, and other forms of help such as legal, employment and medical assistance.
The DILG noted that it has disbursed around P488 million for the program in 2018 and will be allocating P260 million for E-CLIP this year.
“The success of E-CLIP is proof of the government’s sincerity to achieve lasting and meaningful peace throughout the country. Rest assured that the government will continue this whole-of-nation approach to negotiating terms with the local rebels as well as ending local communist armed conflict in the country,” said Año.
LGUs as E-CLIP frontliners
At the 2018 E-CLIP Year-End Assessment held in Nasugbu, Batangas on December 10-13, 2018, local E-CLIP Committees shared their experiences in the program’s 2018 implementation.
“Sa papamagitan ng ECLIP, tulungan natin ang ating mga kasamahan na magbalik-loob sa ating pamahalaan. Tulungan natin silang makabalik sa kanilang komunidad at mamuhay nang maayos na walang panghuhusga (Throught the E-CLIP, we will assist our comrades to return to the government’s fold. We will help them return to their communities to live normal lives without any prejudice)” Oriental Mindoro Governor and Regional Peace and Order Council (PROC) Chairman Alfonso V. Umali said.
On the other hand, Bohol Governor Edgar M. Chatto said “a partnership of stakeholders at all level brings peace, security, development and good governance in communities. After all, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Meanwhile, Governor Marcelino “Dindo” Picardal has this message to the E-CLIP beneficiaries: “My administration fully supports the E-CLIP for former rebels and, thus, augmented from local funds the financial assistance given by the national government to enable your families to start a new life. I hope that you will also perform your responsibility of maximizing the use of these meager resources and lead you and your families to become productive and law-abiding citizens of your communities.”
Lastly, Governor Herminia M. Ramiro of Misamis Occidental believes that – “To build and wield peace – it takes more than just signing treaties and agreements – but by forging trust at a deeper level – especially in reshaping, redirecting and touching the lives of our former rebels”.