BUTUAN CITY (PNA) – Two lucky former combatants of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Agusan del Norte recently won housing units, courtesy of the National Housing Authority (NHA).
The two former rebels surrendered to the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion in 2016 and 2018 in response to the government’s call and assurance of programs and services that will help them win back their lives.
“Roy” and “Derek” (not their real names) were among the 47 former rebels who won houses during the "Raffle Draw of Lot Assignments and Awarding of Certificate of Entitlement" activity of the NHA-Davao del Norte on November 25 in Tagum City.
“I’m a lucky man. I’ve cheated death several times when I was there in the mountains of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur fighting the government. Luck also came when I decided to go back into the fold of the law. Under the guidance and support of the 23IB, I received assistance from the government through the ECLIP program and gained advanced skills and knowledge through series of training given by TESDA ,” Roy, speaking in the local dialect, told the Philippine News Agency on Saturday.
ECLIP is the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government for former rebels.
Roy, 40, is a former squad leader of the Sentro De Grabidad (SDG) of Guerrilla Front (GF) 16, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) of the NPA.
After more than three years of fighting against the government, Roy decided to leave the Communist movement and surrendered to the 23rd IB on March 6, 2018.
“I was misled by the NPA and enticed to join the armed movement to free the poor Filipinos, especially those in the countryside. After more than a year, I realized we are not fighting for the poor and the hopeless. We instilled fear among them and oftentimes endanger their lives. We even take the meager food and supplies they possess, in the name of the revolution,” Roy said.
Disillusionment, privations, and the longing to reunite with family members pushed Roy to heed the government's call to surrender.
Derek, meanwhile, once served as a squad leader of the NPA's GF 88. He yielded to the 23IB on April 6, 2018.
“I have no regrets in deciding to abandon the NPA movement and return to my family. I am happy with the support the government has given to me. The government is sincere in its quest to win peace and development in our country,” Derek said.
With the new house, Derek said he can now peacefully live with his family, who he abandoned for more than two years while inside the NPA movement.
“They said there’s no place like home. It’s true. I’ve been longing for this kind of life. The NPA leaders who recruited me said the armed revolution would provide us a good life. I realized later they were wrong. Death was the path I was leading to when I was fighting the government,” Derek said.
First Lt. Roel Maglalang, 23IB civil-military operations officer, said both Roy and Derek received their livelihood assistance and firearms remuneration via the ECLIP.
“They are also skilled workers now after receiving a series of training from TESDA. When they went home to their respective families, I was certain that they can survive. I heard that they are now working in some companies in their respective places,” Maglalang said.
Lt. Col. Julius Cesar Paulo, 23IB commander, said he was elated with Roy and Derek getting their new homes.
“We are so glad that you finally have your own house. It is difficult to build a house nowadays given the different circumstances and the pandemic the nation is facing,” Paulo said.
“We hope that your triumphs in life will be seen by the remnants of the communist NPA terrorists, and they will also heed to our call for peace to end the insurgency,” the Army official added.