FORMER REBELS. Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson greets former communist rebels during the turnover of government financial assistance to former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army rebels at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City on June 22, 2022. During his inauguration address on Saturday (June 25, 2022), Lacson said the provincial government is eager to welcome back those who are still active in the rebel movement. (Photo courtesy of PIO Negros Occidental)

BACOLOD CITY –  Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson has renewed his call to Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rebels to return to the fold of the law, saying that “choosing peace is always the better choice.”
Lacson issued the invitation in his inaugural address after taking his oath for a second term during the ceremonies held at the provincial capitol grounds here on Saturday.
“To our Negrense brothers and sisters who are still active in the rebel movement, please know that we are eager to welcome you back as we vow to build a stronger and progressive Negros Occidental,” he said.
On June 22, Lacson, together with officials of the Philippine Army and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), turned over a total of  PHP770,000 in cash assistance to 27 former rebels under the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
The governor, who chairs the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said the provincial government will continue to provide socio-economic interventions to former rebels, including education subsidies and health cards for their dependents. 
“We shall endeavor to capacitate them in handling and managing their own socio-entrepreneurial projects to make them sustainable and active partners in community development,” he added.
Lacson also said the province will continue to work closely with  the DILG, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police as well as with civil society groups and multi- stakeholders to implement peace-building activities, particularly in the rural communities.
“I often say that the walk of peace is a long one, and that for peace to be real, we must address, preserve, and respect the core of humanity and human dignity, and it must be the kind that leaves no one behind,” he added.
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)