THE second batch of former rebels who will meet and dine with President Rodrigo Duterte took off on Tuesday morning, February 20, bound for Manila.
The group, composed of 241 individuals, was onboard two Philippine Air Force C-130 aircraft departing from Davao International Airport.
Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) Public Information Officer Major Ezra Balagtey said just like the first batch who were composed of 215 former rebels who were flown to Manila last February 6 to 9, the group will also have dinner with the President in Malacañang. Their tour will end on February 22.
The former rebels come from Compostela Valley Province and Davao Del Norte. They are part of the 683 former New People's Army (NPA) rebels from different parts of Eastern Mindanao that were presented to the President on December 21, 2017, in Panacan, Davao City.
Of the 241, 38 of them are females while 203 are males.
"The activity aims to give the FRs (former rebels) a better perspective in life, particularly in peace building and nationalism. It is part of the government's continuing activity of reintegrating the former rebels in the mainstream society," Balagtey said.
The surrenderers will have a tour at historical and heritage places like Luneta Park and Intramuros while a welcome ceremony will be held today, February 21 at Camp Aguinaldo to be hosted by General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, AFP Chief of Staff.
"Prior to the dinner with the President, they will also get a chance to interact with other former NPA members who now work as advocates of peace and development," he added.
The schedule of the third batch of former rebels will be determined later by the Appointments Office of the President.
On Friday, as promised by the President to the first batch of surrenderers he met in Malacañang, around 50 of the first batch of former rebels were enrolled in the Technical-Vocational Education Training of Tesda as part of their social integration program under the National Integration Scholarship (NIS) program for both Indigenous People (IPs) and rebel returnees.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr., commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, reiterates the willingness and openness of the Army to assist the NPAs who are willing to surrender to the government. A corresponding assistance such as financial and livelihood will be provided to them as part of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) to further entice the active rebels to abandon the movement.
"We are committed and more than willing to accommodate NPAs who want to return to the folds of the law and take part in building a nation of peace for progress and development," he said.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on February 21, 2018.
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