LIVELIHOOD ASSISTANCE. Lt. Pearl Lanuza, Civil-Military Operations officer of the Philippine Army's 11th Infantry Battalion, turns over to former rebel Reynaldo Paculanang P8,000 worth of groceries to start a "sari-sari" store business on Friday (June 24, 2022). The business kit was livelihood assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry aimed at helping surrendered rebels start a new life. (Photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – The commanding officer of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Negros Oriental on Friday lauded the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for its efforts in providing livelihood assistance to former rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Lt. Col. Roderick Salayo told the Philippine News Agency that business kits provided by the DTI will help the surrendered rebels start a new life after having returned to mainstream society.

“This is the essence of the whole-of-nation approach. The government as a whole is helping them to start over and this will somehow aid their needs and hopefully sustain them,” he said. “DTI is always our partner in this campaign, and we are grateful (to them) for this endeavor to give hope to our brothers who returned to the folds of the law.”

The recipients who received the business kits worth PHP8,000 each were Rene Amparado from Mabinay, who received a hog raising package; Manuel Paculanang, who received a goat raising package; and Reynald Paculanang of Sta. Catalina town, who is the father of Manuel, who was given a "sari-sari store" package.

Reynald Paculanang, 59, a widower, told the Philippine News Agency in an interview that untreated illness and dire conditions in the NPA pushed him to surrender to the police late last year.

He said he was a member of the Rachelle Mae Palang Command of the now dismantled Southeast Front of the NPA for five years, being an organizer engaged in community organizing and sometimes carrying a firearm for “self-defense” but was not a combatant.

Paculanang said that prior to his surrender, he came down with some unknown illness that caused his body to bloat and he could no longer walk.

His sons, who were also in the underground movement, told him to go to the hospital for treatment but he was afraid because they were told that they would be killed if they came out in the open.

"When I first joined the NPA, I was idealistic and believed I would die by the bullet, but when I got sick, I realized how important health was to me," he said.

When the health problem worsened, it prompted him to finally leave the insurgency and turned himself in to the police sometime last year.

The police authorities arranged for a doctor to see him in private due to security reasons, and he was given medication that reduced the inflammation and made him walk again, although he could not specifically identify the illness.

He said he realized that the armed struggle in the revolutionary movement has already become “worthless” because of the hardships and the difficult life that they lived while in hiding.

“We did not have nutritious food and we survived only on what people would give us, and sometimes we only had sweet potatoes,” he said.

Aside from Manuel, another son, Juniver, has also surrendered to the authorities, but his youngest, Robert, is still inside the organization, Paculanang said.

The other son, however, still has to undergo profiling and other processes for him to qualify for government assistance.

Paculanang called on the “remnants” of the SEF, including his son, to lay down their arms and surrender so they can have a better and peaceful life.

“The revolution is useless. There are no chances for it to win the war it is waging against the government,” he said in Cebuano.

And to those who are thinking of joining the rebel movement, or those being recruited, he discouraged them saying “I am a living example of the difficulties within the NPA movement that has not helped improve my life”.

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