109 more unassisted ex-NPA rebels in Cordillera get P20,000 cash assistance from gov't

May 6, 2009 3:10 am 

TABUK CITY, May 5 -– A close friend of “Florante” (real name withheld for security purposes) had to carry him piggyback to the stage to receive the government’s cash assistance to former communist rebels like him who used to operate in the mountainous regions of the Northern Cordilleras.

Aside from an earlier injury in the left thumb and index finger due to a booby trap while fighting as a communist guerrilla in the 1980s, “Florante” later succumbed to a worse injury in another trap – a gold mining accident while he was working in the 1990s as a “small-scale” miner north of this city here in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

“Florante” was among 109 former communist guerrillas who each received P20,000 as livelihood assistance from the national government over the weekend at the Pastoral Center of Brgy. Bolinao, this city, more than 460 kms. north of Manila.

The beneficiaries of a total P2.1 million were among the hundreds of former members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and its breakaway group based in mountainous Northern Luzon, the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), who were unassisted prior to the activation of the new Social Integration Program (SIP) for rebel returnees in mid-2008.

Through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and other government agencies, the program awarding unassisted former communist rebels prior to the SIP also benefitted ex-rebel fighters who already reintegrated into the mainstream of society since the 1990s.

In 1986, the government and the CPLA under the late rebel priest Conrado Balweg forged a peace agreement called the Mt. Data “Sipat” or peace accord, which paved the way for the creation of the administrative region in the form of the CAR.

But on December 31, 1999, the NPA assassinated Fr. Balweg in the neighboring province of Abra.

‘Seed capital’

OPAPP executive director Romulo Halabaso, who represented Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Avelino I. Razon Jr. at the awarding ceremony said the cash assistance of P20,000 is a seed capital for a rebel returnee to put up a modest livelihood business.

Among the former rebels the beneficiaries of the government livelihood program are employees of the regional Department of Education (DepEd) in the Cordillera, a lawyer, and six integrees of the Philippine Army 5th Infantry Division.

“This is an essential part in the long process of integration into mainstream society,” Halabaso said, as he lauded the former communist fighters for their commendable decision “to return to the fold of the law for peace and prosperity.”

Halabaso the ex-rebels for their patience in this “long process of integration for you to live a peaceful, meaningful, and productive life with your family and your community.”

He also praised them for their “willingness, sincerity, and readiness” to undergo the process in their return to the mainstream of society “to be reconciled with your loved ones.”

“The integration program is part of the comprehensive peace process which the government is pursuing to achieve a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace,” Halabaso added. “We are thankful for your confidence and trust.”

‘Partners in reform’

Halabaso dubbed the beneficiaries as “kadua ti reporma,” the Ilocano translation for “partners in reform.”

During earlier awarding ceremonies for unassisted former communist rebels in the Visayas, OPAPP Undersecretary Pedro Cesar Ramboanga dubbed these “partners in reform” as “kauban sa reporma” in the Cebuano dialect in Bohol and “kaupod ha reporma” in the Waray dialect of Samar.

Kalinga Gov. Floydelia Dianes lauded the former NPA rebels for abandoning the fruitless armed struggle.

“You are now regular members of mainstream society, and you are enjoying peace and order in your community,” Diasen said, adding, "you have been lost before, now you're found and you are born again.” (PNA)

DCT/PR/utb

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