Former rebels tour military headquarters

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed 215 former members of the communist New People's Army to the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Wednesday, February 7.

AFP chief of staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero led the welcoming ceremonies for the former rebels who were brought by the military to Metro Manila for an all-expense-paid tour in a bid to change their perception of the government and Philippine history.

The group came from Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley in Mindanao.

Brigadier General Reuben James Basiao, commander of the 701st Brigade, said the former rebels were toured around Intramuros and Luneta Park in Manila upon their arrival on Tuesday.

The group is scheduled to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang on Wednesday evening.

Among the surrenderers are two commanding officers of the NPA who were part of the 683 NPA members who surrendered to the government and met with Duterte in December 2017 at the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City.

Duterte urged the NPA members to surrender to the authorities and promised to give them livelihood and housing. They will also be given opportunity to undergo training with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

Basiao said 40 former NPA members have already expressed and have already qualified to join the military

“Sa ngayon starting 2018 in-enhance pa ang comprehensive local integration program ng pangulo natin so ang dagdag d’yan ay meron pa tayong pabahay, meron opportunity for employment at may opportunity din na sumali sa pagsusundalo at maging miyembro ng AFP once qualified sila (The integration program has been enhanced starting 2018. It will include housing, employment opportunity and a chance to join the AFP),” Basiao said.

Basiao added that the former rebels were also paid for each firearm they surrendered, as follows: P50,000 for each long firearm and P15,000 to P20,000 for a short firearm.

According to alias Jaylord, a political instructor of the NPA since 2014, he decided to turn himself in because he could no longer endure the difficulties of fighting against the government.

“Bumalik ako sa pamahalaan sa baka ng gobyerno, sa loob naranasan namin ang kahirapan, walang pagkain at tsaka hindi nasustentuhan ang pamilya namin na sinasabing bibigyan ng pera at bibigyan ng bigas... ‘yung sinasabing mapag aral ang mga kapatid namin hanggang kami ay nasa taas, hindi po ‘yun natupad,” he said.

(We had no food, our families did not get the money and rice supply promised to us and our siblings did not get the education that was promised to them.)

An alias Ronron, a youth leader for three years, said they were encouraged by the offer of the government including the free education which they did not experience while being a member of the communist group. Instead of a pen, they were asked to hold a firearm, he said.

Basiao said the former rebels underwent a 10-day de-radicalization program and 30-day livelihood program at the Happy Home in Davao Oriental in order to change their perception in life. (SunStar Philippines)


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