FIFTY-THREE former members of the Dawlah Islamiya (DI) terrorist group have received P12,500 assistance each or a total of P700,000 from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm) through the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG).

Of the P12,500, Barmm said in a statement that the P5,000 is cash assistance while the remaining P7,500 is in the form of a food pack.

The distribution of the assistance was held at Camp Ranao that houses the headquarters of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City.

The distribution was through the MILG’s Project Tulong ng Gobyernong Nagmamalasait (Tugon), which aims to transition former DI combatants, who have returned to the fold of the law, back to the mainstream and to ensure that they will not revert to unlawful activities.

One of the former DI terrorists and recipient of the assistance, a certain Mim, recalled the hardship he experienced when he was still with the terrorist group.

“Noong nasa operasyon pa kami, ang nasa isip lang namin ay kamatayan palagi. Mahirap dahil wala kaming maayos na buhay. Ngayon, okay na dahil sa gobyerno,” Mim said.

(When we were in operation, death was always on our minds. It's hard because we don't have a good life. Now, it's okay because of the government.)

He said the assistance of MILF-Barmm given to them through Project Tugon will allow them to become active members of society.

Mim is also hopeful that other members of the DI terrorist group would be enlightened and will join the government in promoting peace in the region.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Palawan Miondas of the 103rd Infantry Brigade said that through the project, they are exerting their effort by tapping partner agencies to help them extend their programs to the former DI combatants.

“After your return to the fold of law, ito ang effort sa level ng 103rd infantry brigade na maghanap ng partners na makatulong sa inyo. Dapat isustain nagin at iyan ang isa sa mga effort na ginagawa naming (this is the effort at the level of the 103rd infantry brigade to find partners to help you. It must be sustained and that is one of the efforts we are making),” Miondas said.

Since the Barmm launched Project Tugon, 132 surrenderers from Maguindanao, 56 from Lanao del Sur, and 53 from Sulu were already profiled and benefited from the project. (SunStar Zamboanga)