By Mike Crismundo
CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – Thirty-three former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attended an empowerment workshop on Friday, June 19, at the headquarters of the 23rd Infantry (Masigasig) Battalion (23rd IB) in Barangay Alubihid, Buenavista town, Agusan del Norte province.
“The conduct peace and character development workshop was aimed at increasing the former rebel’s (FRs) degree of autonomy and self-determination as they prepare to go back to their respective families and communities,” said 23rd IB commanding officer Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo on Tuesday.
The 23rd IB commander, who initiated the workshop, emphasized that the activity will also provide the FRs the enabling mechanisms to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way through their own authority.
“Our former rebels, while they were still inside the communist movement, have experienced the loss of identities and self-esteem as they were subjected to blind obedience and were fed with false claims and ideology,” Paulo said.
The activity had given the former rebels the ability to build back their confidence and self-worth by inculcating into their understanding the existing norms of the functioning government and the communities they once left behind.
“We need to boost their confidence by eradicating the untruthful and deceptive learning’s they had while with the NPAs degraded their self-worth and damaged their concepts of our working and democratic government and despoiled their appreciations to their families and communities,” the 23rd IB commander added.
Among those who joined the activity was a certain “Ka Mikay”, who personally experienced self-conversions in terms of her outlooks of the government and her community.
“Ka Mikay” also realized how damaging the indoctrination the CNTs made to her and the rest of her companions inside the communist movement.
“I am grateful because regardless of what had happened in my previous experiences, I am still accepted by the government and was even encouraged to pursue my dreams to have a brighter future together with my family,” she said.
She added: “Lahi ra gyod ang pagtrato sa Army sa amoa kompara sa pagtrato sa amo sa CPP-NPA nga igo ra gyod me ge-ilad ug gipahimoslan sa ilang dili maayo nga buluhaton” (There is big difference between the government soldiers (Army) compared with the CPP-NPA. They only misled us and taught us wrongdoings.
Paulo also made a call to the remaining NPAs to carefully weigh the options being given them by the government and surrender to renew their lives.
“Their former comrades who are now with the government can attest to the transformations they have undergone, not only in terms of financial benefits through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) of the government, but also in rediscovering their true selves and worth and in correcting their concepts and perspectives on the government, the community, and their families,” Paulo added.