Acting presidential spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar (File photo)

MANILA – Getting more communist rebels to surrender is among the greatest legacies under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Malacañang said Tuesday.

In a Palace press briefing, acting presidential spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar announced that over 22,000 people linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) have surrendered and abandoned the local armed struggle since 2016.

Kasama sa Duterte legacy ang pagbalik loob ng mahigit 22,000 rebel returnees (Getting 22,000 rebels to return to government fold is among Duterte’s legacies),” he said.

Citing government data, Andanar said about 6,418 former rebels were given financial assistance while 879 former rebels were given housing assistance.

He also said about 24,982 former rebels and dependents have graduated from skills training.

Andanar attributed these achievements to the government’s flagship program for the reintegration of former members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip).

Under the E-Clip, each qualified rebel who surrendered will receive an immediate financial assistance of PHP15,000, livelihood assistance of PHP50,000, and reintegration assistance of PHP21,000. Firearms remuneration is also given for each surrendered firearm.

Tunay na mas pinalawak at pinalakas natin ang mga programa para sa rebel returnees (We have certainly expanded and strengthened programs for rebel returnees),” he added.

On April 16, Duterte renewed his call to communist insurgents to surrender and reintegrate into mainstream society, reassuring them that they would get assistance from the government.

“I hope that we would find peace with the communists. Ayokong makipag-away sa inyo (I do not want to fight you),” he said. “You know, you can fight 53 years in the making. You want another 53 years? And you think you can win a barangay (village) or a city? Not in a million years. Mabuti pa bumaba na lang kayo (It’s better for you to just surrender).

He also expressed hope that the next administration would succeed in talking peace with communist rebels who have been fighting with the government for more than five decades.

“Hindi kayo maghinto, mag-away talaga tayo (We will fight each other if you do not stop). But we were friends. We were friends. Were na kasi tapos na (because it’s all in the past). But I hope that whoever comes in next after me, they would try to reconnect and I pray that it (peace talks) would succeed,” he added.

Duterte formally ended formal talks with communist rebels in November 2017 for their supposed insincerity in the negotiations.

The government peace panel coordinating with the NDF was dismantled in March 2019.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

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