By Francis Wakefield
The Task Force Balik-Loob (TFBL) and its partners from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental and the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, awarded financial assistance to four former rebels (FRs).
The four were also given training on animal raising at the Negros Oriental Convention Center by the provincial veterinarian, Jaime Villaluz.
Among the four FRs who returned to the fold of the law was a 16-year old boy, who joined the NPA when he was only 15 years old.
Alias “Joey” claimed that he was coerced by a Communist recruiter to join the terrorist movement while he was attending school in their barangay. He said that life in the mountains was “lisod kayo,” Cebuano dialect for “very hard.”
Now that he surrendered, he and his parents, just like the other three FRs can now start their own poultry, piggery or cattle-raising business after receiving P68,000 from Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecretary Reynaldo B. Mapagu, DILG Provincial Director Dennis Quiñones, Governor Roel Ragay Degamo and Lt Gen Noel S. Clement, the Commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Central Command (AFP-CentCom).
The immediate assistance amounting to P15, 000 and the P50, 000 livelihood assistance was awarded to the FRs as part of the benefits under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), while the additional P3, 000 for their immediate need was given to them by the local government unit (LGU). The presentation of cash assistance was followed by a ceremonial handing over of fowls, specifically chickens, that would help the FRs start up a poultry business.
Clement reminded everyone that it was high time that the 50-year Communist movement ends since nothing good has come out of it, as seen in the five decades of its existence.
In addressing the FRs.
Mapagu, on the other hand, asked them to convince their former comrades to return to the fold of the law to start a new, better life and for the Philippines to see the end of insurgency. He also recognized the crucial role of the LGU in the success of the Task Force, especially the E-CLIP.
Mapagu reminded them, along with welcoming FRs, that they should also ensure that their constituents will not be enticed to join the NPA. He also emphasized that good governance is key to the successful implementation of the program.
Degamo, for his part, assured Mapagu that he will continue to work and implement programs that will assist former rebels when they surrender and provide activities that will prevent them from joining the Communist organization.