DUMAGUETE CITY – Former rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Negros Oriental who surrendered to authorities have benefited from the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) this year amid the challenges brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Records from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial office showed that for this year, a total of PHP1.315 million in financial assistance has been given to 42 former rebels (FRs) who surrendered to the government through the Philippine Army.
DILG provincial director Farah Gentuya told the Philippine News Agency that the beneficiaries had undergone the processes outlined by the government for them to avail of the E-CLIP, through which the government helps rebel returnees reintegrate back to the community and start a new, normal life together with their families.
The DILG’s accomplishment report covering Jan. 1 – July 15, 2021 shows the E-CLIP assistance came from the agency’s Administered Package Assistance and the provincial government of Negros Oriental.
Three separate turnover ceremonies of E-CLIP assistance and projects were held in February, June, and July.
Financial and livelihood assistance
On Feb. 3, a total of PHP540,000 government assistance was given to 27 persons identified as former “Militia ng Bayan” (MB) members from the towns of Ayungon (nine); Zamboanguita (eight); Siaton (five); Sta. Catalina and Valencia (two each); and Sibulan (one).
Each of them received PHP15,000 representing the DILG Administered Package Assistance and PHP5,000 provincial government financial assistance or a total of PHP20,000, the accomplishment report showed.
On June 24, eight FRs from Guihulngan City (five); Mabinay and Canlaon City (one each); and two from Isabela, Negros Occidental whose benefits were processed in Negros Oriental, were granted an accumulated total of PHP600,000.
Each of them received PHP75,000, broken down into PHP15,000 DILG-Administered Package Assistance; PHP50,000 livelihood assistance; PHP5,000 provincial government financial assistance; and PHP5,000 personal cash assistance from Gov. Roel Degamo.
During the same turnover activity, seven MB members from Guihulngan City and one each from Canlaon City and Ayungon, also received the PHP15,000 DILG Administered Package Assistance; PHP5,000 provincial government financial assistant through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO); and PHP5,000 personal cash from the governor, totaling PHP25,000 each.
Some FRs and MBs who surrendered their firearms were also given the so-called Firearms Remuneration double the amount based on the assessment of authorities.
For long firearms surrendered, each returnee received PHP45,000 and for short firearms, PHP30,000 each.
The report, however, did not say how many of them received certain amounts under the Firearms Remuneration program, apparently for security reasons.
To facilitate the FRs' transition from the underground movement to mainstream society, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Negros Oriental E-CLIP Halfway House was held last July 5 at Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay City, where the 302nd Brigade of the Philippine Army is headquartered.
Gentuya said this is pursuant to the DILG-Department of National Defense Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2018-01 dated July 5, 2018, entitled: "Implementing Guidelines for the Provision of DILG-Administered Package Assistance for Former Rebels (FRs) and Militia ng Bayan (MB)", provided that the local government unit shall allocate financial assistance from the E-CLIP for the construction of a halfway house.
The facility, as stipulated in the joint memorandum circular, will house a rebel returnee while awaiting enrolment to the program and serve as a venue in conducting rehabilitation and healing sessions, and education and skills training activities.
The groundbreaking rites were graced by DILG-Region 7 (Central Visayas) director Leocadio T. Trovela, Negros Oriental E-CLIP committee members headed by the governor, the provincial DILG director, provincial police director Col. Glen Mayam, 302nd Brigade commander Col. Leonardo Peña, and civil service organizations (CSO) representative Fernando Martinez.
On July 13, the signing of a memorandum of agreement and deed of grant of usufructuary rights for the establishment of the Negros Oriental E-CLIP Halfway House in Camp Leon Kilat was held.
Gentuya is hopeful that even as Negros Oriental still grapples with a surge in cases of Covid-19, the E-CLIP will continue this year with more beneficiaries to the program that the government has designed for rebel returnees who want to start their lives anew.
The E-CLIP was put on hold last year and “we did not have any accomplishments” because of the restrictions that came with the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.
Sustaining the fight against insurgency
While the country is waging a war against Covid-19, the military and its allied law enforcement units in government are, on the other hand, fighting another war, determined to crush the decades-long insurgency through the Whole of Nation Approach of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Maj. Cenon Pancito III, spokesperson of the 3rd Infantry Division – the mother unit of the Philippine Army in the Central Visayas and Western Visayas regions – told the Philippine News Agency they will continue with its vision of ending the insurgency through various approaches, such as the E-CLIP.
He noted that armed combat is not the only solution to ending the communist insurgency, as the government has various programs and projects for the reintegration of rebels into society.
“There will always be a better approach than combat operations towards attaining that vision kaya nga sa Army, ang gusto namin ay makipag-usap sa kanila (that is why we in the Army want to talk to them),” Pancito said. “And if they do not heed our call, there are only two options: to surrender or to be killed in battle."
Asked about their role in the E-CLIP, he said it is the Army that conducts the processes as mandated by law to determine the surrenderers' classification and qualification under the said program.
The MBs are those comprising the militia unit and “reserved force” utilized for intelligence and tactical offensive but not a part of the CPP's armed component, the NPA, of which the FRs are the “regular members”, he said.
“We do the assessment and make recommendations of those who surrender but the final say is still with the E-CLIP committee headed by the governor,” Pancito said.
The Army official reiterated the government’s call for NPA members to surrender and return to mainstream society, saying “Let us learn from the lessons of those former rebels who are now with the government, kung gaano na kaganda ang kanilang buhay (how their lives are better now)”.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)