SURRENDERERS. Some 19 CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) surrender with 12 firearms at Sitio Mahayag, Barangay St. Peter in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on Oct. 27, 2021. A total of 20,579 former rebels have surrendered to the government from July 2016 to November 2021. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – Almost PHP500 million worth of cash assistance has been given to the former rebels (FRs) under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), according to an official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Navy Captain Ferdinand Buscato, executive director of Task Force Balik-Loob and representative of E-CLIP and Amnesty Clusters of NTF-ELCAC, said a total of 20,579 FRs have surrendered to the government from July 2016 to November 2021.

Buscato said since the creation of NTF-ELCAC through Executive Order No. 80 in 2018, a total of 3,751 FRs have been given livelihood assistance worth PHP50,000 each (PHP187.2 million) while 6,171 received immediate assistance amounting to PHP15,000 each (PHP92.46 million).

He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has also extended reintegration assistance worth PHP96.6 million and firearms remuneration worth PHP109 million to former members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“[That’s] for a total of halos kalahating bilyon na po ang binayad ng DILG para po sa ating mga former rebels (almost half a billion [pesos] were given by the DILG for our former rebels),” Buscato said in a recent virtual “Tagged!” Debunking Lies by Telling the Truth press conference.

Under the ECLIP, he said a total of 623 FRs were also employed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and a total of 192 FRs were employed by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Iyong AFP ay nakapag-employ na po ng a total of 623 former rebels. Ito po ay kinabibilangan ng 66 na regular force na kung sila ay nasa hanay na po ng AFP at iyong iba naman at nakabilang na po sa civilian armed auxiliary na kung saan sila ay nagbabantay sa kani-kanilang mga komunidad (The AFP was able to employ a total of 623 former rebels. This consists of 66 who are part of the regular force while others are included in the civilian armed auxiliary where they guard their respective communities),” he said.

“Ilagay sila sa non-uniformed personnel. So, a total of 192 former rebels na po ang na-employed sa ating Philippine National Police (They will be among the non-uniformed personnel. So a total of 192 former rebels have been employed by the Philippine National Police),” he added.

He also said 266 FRs were also provided with housing units by the National Housing Authority (NHA).

“Iyong ating FRs, nag-surrender, na-empowered natin sila—nabigyan ng skills, nabigyan natin ng cooperative people’s organizations/associations, mayroon na silang community (Our FRs who have surrendered are now empowered—we give them skills, we give them cooperative people’s organizations/associations, they even have their own community),” he said.

Buscato, meanwhile, said FRs in need of additional funds may also avail of loans through the ‘Balik-Loob’ lending program of the Land Bank of the Philippines.

To date, he said at least 15 FRs from Regions 3 (Central Luzon), 8 (Eastern Visayas), and 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) were able to avail of the said loan.

‘Superior and unprecedented’

Joel Sy-Egco, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson on Fact Checking and Media Affairs, said the government’s whole-of-nation approach to end local communist armed conflict is superior and unprecedented unmatched by any administration.

He added “because it (the administration) knows and continues to understand what most barangays and our kababayans in these geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas really need such as roads and electricity, food security, access to clean water, education, health services, decent livelihood, and of course, peace and order in their community and many others.”

“For 53 years of conflict with the CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front), it is only through President Duterte that the government became more responsive and effective in ending the communist terrorist group’s reign of terror by offering new alternatives and presenting and giving better lives to former rebels and their families who went back to the fold of law,” Egco, also executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, said.

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.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the National Democratic Front as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)