MANILA – A total of 18,433 former rebels belonging to communist terror groups (CTG) nationwide, including 92 "child soldiers", have returned to the fold of the law and are now enjoying normal life through the “whole of nation” integration program implemented by the Duterte administration since 2016.
At the weekly virtual press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Monday, Maj. Gen. Ernesto C. Torres, commander of the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA) in Southern Mindanao, said there is a "continuous trend" of rebels abandoning the communist movement as government efforts have effectively unmasked the pointless revolution being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Torres said from 2016, the government forces were able to trim down the number of communist guerrilla fronts from 23 to six. These surrenderers include several top ranking CPP-NPA-NDF officials such as Renante Mantos a,k.a. 'Nante' and 'Roy', head of one guerrilla front in Davao del Norte, and Eddie Genelsa a.k.a. 'Lando', 'Pahak', 'Brad', and 'Jumbo', commanding officer of a guerrilla front and was even an NDF peace panel member in the Norway peace negotiation in 2016.
He said the government forces have also closed down 82 schools established by the CPP-NPA-NDF that "deceptively recruit young indigenous peoples (IPs)" in Mindanao.
"They (schools) were already replaced by 35 DepEd accredited schools," Torres said, adding that they have also recorded 92 "child soldiers" who surrendered and are now enjoying government assistance for them to be productive members of the society.
Torres also revealed the number of surrenderers also significantly reduced the CPP-NPA-NDF "extortion income” from PHP7 million to PHP1.2 million.
Earlier, 402 barangays in the region have already declared the CTGs as 'persona-non-grata' in their communities. These successes have effectively lessened the number of encounters to only nine compared to past years' almost daily encounters.
He said the continuing surrender of rebels was due to government efforts "to bring and give a chance to former rebels to earn for themselves", which is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “whole of nation” approach in dealing with the communist insurgency.
Torres said the military role is to bridge former rebels to organizations supported by the local chief executives and other government agencies, with the goal of “strengthening agri-based, tourism-based and handcraft” livelihood projects.
E-CLIP effective measure
Task Force Balik-Loob (TFBL) and Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, on the other hand, said the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) created by Administrative Order No. 10 "to assist former rebels to get back in mainstream society after deciding to abandon their pointless organization," is an effective measure contributing to the massive surrender of CPP-NPA-NDF fighters, including the Abu Sayyaf Group bandits and other terror groups.
"Two hundred thirty-nine former rebels were even given housing assistance, 9,188 were beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development assistance, 1,845 given livelihood assistance by the Department of Trade and Industry, 9,103 were under TUPAD program of the Department of Labor and Employment, 21,549 were already trained through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority including the former rebels dependents were given skills training," Mapagu said.
Mapagu said E-CLIP is giving opportunity to former rebels to start a new life.
“Assistance is not a reward but rather as the country's human capital, an opportunity that former rebels should develop for a better future," he added.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Philippines. (PR)