ALS GRADUATES. Fifteen Indigenous People (IP) enlisted personnel of the Army's 23rd Infantry Battalion and 38 former rebels from Agusan del Norte have completed their Alternative Learning System program. The graduates were recognized in a ceremony held in Butuan City on Tuesday (July 26, 2022). (Photo courtesy of 23IB)

BUTUAN CITY – Thirty-eight former rebels and 15 Indigenous Peoples (IP) enlisted Army personnel have completed their Alternative Learning System (ALS) studies.

“The FR (former rebel) graduates were those who surrendered on different occasions last year to the unit,” 2nd Lt. Paoula Andrea Ledesma of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion (IB), said in an interview Wednesday.

Ledesma said the IP soldiers were enlisted as regular forces of the Army through a special enlistment program of the government.

She said the special enlistment program is the government’s response to counter the recruitment of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) targeting tribal communities in Agusan del Norte province.

The ALS program was introduced to the IP soldiers and former rebels in collaboration with the Department of Education 13 (Caraga).

Among those who completed the ALS program was Inday Binongkasan, an IP member who was thankful to the government for the opportunity to go back to school.

“The NPA drove us, especially the IPs, out of our schools. They destroyed our future, especially our youth,” Binongkasan, 54, was quoted as saying by the 23IB.

In the same statement, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Balingao, the new 23IB commander, said the ALS program was designed for the best interest of the IP soldiers as they could take it in the middle of their military service.

“We also give recognition to the ALS teachers who patiently taught and helped them complete the program,” Balingao said.
 
The Communist Party of the Philippines - NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The National Democratic Front was 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)