Eleven rebel returnees each received financial assistance of PHP15,000 from the Palawan provincial government late Friday afternoon under the comprehensive Local Social Integration Program (LSIP).
Governor Jose Alvarez personally awarded the checks, with a total amount of PHP165,000, to the former members of the New People’s Army’ (NPA) Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC) in the province.
The governor was accompanied by Lt. General Raul del Rosario of the Western Command (WESCOM), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año, and other military and local government officials.
The 11 former rebels were accepted as LSIP beneficiaries several months after undergoing thorough background checks by the WESCOM to ensure that their intention to return to government fold is earnest and free of deceit, said Abigail Ablaña of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO).
The amount given is different from the PHP50,000 the rebel returnees will also each receive from the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said Ablaña.
“All in all, each of them will receive PHP65,000 so, they can start the livelihood projects that can help them and their families,” said Ablaña. Since 2014, more or less 30 rebel returnees have already benefited from the LSIP.
Shortly after the awarding, Alvarez stressed in a media conference that the provincial government is sincere in offering livelihood support to rebels who are willing to lay down their arms and quit the communist-terrorist (CT) movement.
“We were talking to the rebel returnees and we can see that the propaganda the NPA is using is to recruit them is the promise of being paid PHP3,000. It is a pity that they are easily lured by this indoctrination,” he said.
He said that if jobs are what they need, the provincial government will look for them. “It was an unfortunate situation for them, and the provincial government should really help give them normal lives. I told them to call on their comrades to go down the mountains now because if job is what they need, we will look for jobs for them,” he said.
Año, on the other hand, called on remaining members of the NPA in Palawan to surrender peacefully now or risk being killed in encounters with government troops.
“Don’t wait for the time that you will be killed in encounters with government troops. The arm struggle will not do you anything good. For the next 50 to 100 years, the CPP and the NPA will never win in their arm struggle. You will only be wasting your life there,” Año said.
The AFP chief of staff is positive that with the good working relationship among the WESCOM, local governments, and majority of residents of the province, the NPA’s presence in Palawan will soon end.
“I think in a very short time, the presence of the NPA here will end,” Año said as he lauded the efforts of Governor Alvarez and Gen. Del Rosario in bringing the rebel returnees to benefit from the LSIP.
Meanwhile, rebel returnee Isakar Monopolyo of Rio Tuba, Bataraza, who surrendered last February, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that he left the NPA since life in the mountains has become hard for him and his family.
“After two years and a half, I realized that there is no life for me in the mountains because it is very, very hard there. I have no future there, and I also worry for my family,” Monopolyo said.
Amado Enrico, another former rebel who left the NPA in 2015 but surrendered just this year, said he opted out as he does not want to end up killing anyone during encounters.
“I do not want to kill, I am not a killer. My family had sacrificed enough during those times I was in the NPA and I don’t want that anymore. This financial support from the government will really help us a lot,” he said.
Alvarez and Año also viewed display of various “war materials” seized by government troops from a series of focused military operations in southern Palawan.
Among those exhibited were components for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) like the pipe bomb used in the roadside bombing of the Marines’ M35 truck on July 18; unfinished fabricated 12 gauge shotguns, subversive reading materials used to recruit new members; short firearms with one bearing the name of the PNP; and leftist flags.