DAVAO CITY – Some 700 former communist rebels faced President Rodrigo Duterte in a dialogue organized by the Philippine military on Thursday in the southern city of Davao, officials said.
Army Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner that those who attended the meeting were former fighters of the New People’s Army who surrendered this year in the provinces of Agusan, Bukidnon, Surigao, Davao, Cotabato and Sarangani.
He said many of those who yielded to the government have received financial assistance and livelihood aid as part of the so-called Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP. Others, he said, are still being processed so they can also receive assistance from the government.
“The former rebels who were from the provinces and who had surrendered their firearms to the authorities, and after undergoing verification processes are now the automatic recipients of the CLIP of the government which offers various financial and livelihood assistance,” Balagtey explained.
He said among the specific benefits that each former communist rebel can get from CLIP are P15,000 financial support, another P50,000 for livelihood, and a remuneration for the surrendered firearm with an amount ranging from P12,000 to P210,000 depending on the type of firearms that they turned over to the government.
Balagtey said Duterte also ordered government agencies to send their representatives to the meeting to help and hasten the processing of the rebel returnees so they benefit from the CLIP. “Various officials from different government agencies had also attended the event not only to witness but also to hold dialogues with the former communist rebels and offer talks on government’s social services, health, infra, livelihood, education, social justice and governance programs to help former communist rebels reintegrate to the society smoothly,” he said.
A number of former rebels have also joined the military’s CAFGU unit to help troops guard their communities from NPA attacks. “Meron mga dating rebelde ang ngayon ay CAFGU na at sila ang ating katuwang sa pagbabantay at pagbibigay ng seguridad sa ating mga kababayan at komunidad,” Balagtey said.
He also appealed to rebels to take advantage of the government’s amnesty program and return to the folds of the law and live a peaceful life with their families. The NPA has been fighting for decades in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a communist state in the country.
Duterte has declared a limited Christmas truce to allow government soldiers to enjoy the holiday break with their families, but the unilateral cease-fire would not stop law enforcement operations against the rebel group. (Mindanao Examiner)
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