RIZAL, Kalinga – The Kalinga Rebel Returnees Association (KRRA), which was recently registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), sees the government standing side by side with them for a much better life in this province.
Marcelino Ibaña, chairman of the KRRA, said Monday they are confident that after years of seeking help, their situation will be better compared in the past under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and thru the whole of nation approach that is embodied in Executive Order (EO) 70 that aims to end the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC).
KRRA has about 1,500 members.
He said their group was able to get recognition and was registered as an organization in government offices like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), as well as the provincial government, giving them a legal personality eligible to receive government aid.
“The government cannot give to an organization which has incomplete documents. The governor of Kalinga and the Sanggunian (Panlalawigan) saw the papers of KRRA and they approved us,” he said.
“With the help of the province, we have our papers now. We understand now how the government works and with our papers, we can already access assistance for our members who are former rebels, who returned to the fold of the law for a peaceful life,” Ibaña said in the Ilocano dialect.
Ibaña said their members have already received various trainings from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
They have also approached the Department of Agriculture (DA) for livelihood assistance in the form of farm equipment, among others.
Ibaña said DA-Cordillera regional director Cameron Odsey has committed to help them but said it will not be fully given yet considering the limited resources which have to be spread out to all other requests.
“We requested for livelihood, cows, carabaos, tractor for the field to help our members who have nothing after coming from the mountains,” Ibaña said.
He said they informally created their group in 2014 but did not receive government aid. It was only in 2021 when they received their SEC document after its filing in 2019.
Ibaña said that with the government extending aid, others like them will be enticed to go down the mountains.
“We want our colleagues at the mountains to see this, the government helping us. We want them to see that it is not the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army) that can help but the government,” he added in the dialect.
“Dakayu nga kakadwi mi dita bantay bumaba kayu lumakay kayu ditan, awan met ti makatulong kadakayo nu di ket ti gobyerno so that you will be like us, free. Narigat lang nu dita kayu dita bantay nga malamlamok lang (to you our brothers at the mountains who are getting old, come down. There is nobody who can help you but the government so that you will be free like us. It is difficult if you are just there being bitten by mosquitoes),” he added.
Ibaña was in the movement from 1987 to 1994 and was able to join the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) thru the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). He expressed hope that former rebels would group themselves just like in Kalinga. He said rebel returnees have to form an association including in Cagayan, Isabela and other parts of the country so they could also get more government services.
Partner for peace
Governor Ferdinand Tubban, in an interview, said the KRRA has become an active member of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) that helps convince other rebels to surrender and avail of the government’s sincerity to help them renew their lives.
“We are thankful because at least some rebel returnees have become part of the government especially as members of the PPOC. I think this is a good thing they are doing to convince others to return to the fold of the law,” Tubban said.
He said that with the whole of nation approach, government agencies are working together to aid the former rebels.
“Yan ang isang lalong nagpatibay ng kanilang loob na ang gobyerno natin ay talagang bibigyan sila ng mas magandang buhay (that one is giving them the confidence that our government will give them a good life),” he said. (PNA)