By Chito Chavez
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año on Sunday stressed last week’s “demilitarization’’ of 21 firearms surrendered by former rebels in Southern Tagalog was “a giant leap towards our quest for peace, because in any armed struggle, having the strongest stick means having the upper hand”.
Año led the ceremony for the demilitarization of firearms at Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna last week.
He also lauded Region IV-A officials for their continued commitment to end the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC).
A former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Año said that for the NPA combatants to lose one’s weapon meant like being stripped naked in battle.
“Kaya naman malaking bagay na ibinaba na ng ating mga nagbabalik-loob na kababayan ang kanilang mga sandata na siyang nangangahulugan ng pagyakap nilang muli at pagbabalik sa batas (That is why it is a big boost that the former rebels have decided to lay their arms down as a sign that they are back to lawful acts),” Año said.
“No longer will these weapons be used to harm, threaten, and extort from the innocent. And no longer will their hands be tainted with guilt and blood,” he added.
Año also summed up the sentiments of most Filipinos, saying “50 years of conflict are enough. We need to stop the insurgency now.”
He added “being a government with tapang and malasakit, the greatest gift we can impart to our people and future generations is a peaceful and progressive life.”
From July 2016 up to November 2019, the DILG said the government had distributed financial assistance to 2,882 former rebels.
Año noted this was aside from the livelihood assistance provided to 1,788 former rebels to make them turn a new leaf in life.
He also revealed that the government was planning “to give P20 million to each conflict-free barangay and P1.5 million to each conflict-threatened/affected barangay for development projects.”
Año recalled that since the present administration assumed office, 160 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front as well as their families have surrendered in Region IVA, and 116 of them have been provided with financial assistance under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).
Thumbs up for CALABARZON
Año lauded the mayors of Southern Tagalog for taking the lead in the advocacy to end insurgency in the country.
He also commended the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for “bravely [standing] under fire and [helping] in the conduct of other ways to defeat the communism in the region. Thank you for tirelessly heeding the call of duty’’.
The DILG chief thanked the civilians for taking back rebel returnees and enlisted the support of all stakeholders to President Rodrigo Duterte’s government’s quest for peace and urged the Calabarzon constituents to sustain their efforts and be the first region to end insurgency.
Año especially commended DILG IV-A Regional Director Elias Fernandez for working hard to implement the ELCAC and being the first to establish a regional task force for it.