MANILA – A military official said July 2016 to May 2021 saw the return of close to 18,000 communist rebels and supporters to the government fold.
Navy Captain Ferdinand Buscato, executive director of the government’s Task Force Balik-Loob, said the 17,958 returnees from July 1, 2016 to May 28, 2021 include 3,684 New People's Army (NPA) regulars, 2,039 members of the Militia ng Bayan, 1,736 from underground mass organizations, 636 from Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad, and 7,074 communist mass supporters.
Some 2,789 supporters are still being validated and verified by the Joint Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Intelligence Committee (JAPIC).
Buscato, during Monday's "TAGGED: Debunking Lies by Telling the Truth" online press conference, said benefit claims of rebel returnees are checked meticulously before they are admitted into the government's integration program.
Surrenderers, he said, are placed under JAPIC upon their surrender.
"That is one of our assurance that the one na nagsu-surrender (that are surrendering) are really genuine former rebels, hindi sila iyong mga fake surrenderers lang (not fake surrenderers) So once they are validated, they will be enrolled to our halfway houses wherein they will undergo various programs," he said.
He said these programs include de-radicalization program, livelihood, and skills training.
"And then after that, we will award them of them different assistance that we have prepared wherein we got 15 assistance package aligned to each former rebel," he added.
Buscato clarified that these assistance packages are not one-size-fits-all and that these can be modified to suit the preference of a former rebel on what he or she wishes to achieve upon reintegration into mainstream society.
"And then the local social welfare development officer will come up with a business plan for each former rebel. And then after that, we will go through with the giving of the assistance or benefit package. So kung ano iyong nagustuhan niya, ibibigay iyon through the different agencies that we have (If what he or she desires, we give that through our different agencies (that we have under Task Force Balik Loob)," he added.
He added that livelihood assistance depends on the rebel returnees’ reintegration plan. If they want to be a welder, they can undergo welding through the Technical Education And Skills Development Authority.
“Kung gusto naman nilang magkaroon ng negosyo (If they want to start a business), they can go to DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and then kung magtrabaho (if they want to have jobs), they can go to DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment). Kung lupa (if they want to have land for farming), they have the DA (Department of Agriculture) and DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform)," Buscato said.
Thereafter, he said, the government can proceed to the sustainability and community building phase, wherein after staying in halfway houses, they can join the community of their choice.
Development kicks in through the "Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan" (PAMANA) or barangay development projects in the community.
He said the government’s reintegration package consists of eight amnesty, security and safety, housing, skills and education, social and community, health, legal, livelihood, and employment.
Rebel returnees, who like prodigal children, will be welcomed back to the community by the local government units (LFUs) and involve as community development partners.
Task Force Balik-Loob was created by virtue of Administrative Order No 10 dated April 3, 2018, as a central coordinating body that supervises the government's reintegration efforts for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front including their immediate family members.
It is composed of representatives from the Department of National Defense, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Office of the President, and the National Housing Authority, and other partner government agencies. (PNA)