PEACE OFFERING. Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. (3rd from left) hands over a giant check replica of financial aid to a former New People's Army rebel in a ceremony at the Provincial Government Complex in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur on Friday (Aug. 12, 2022). Abalos released a total of PHP3.06 million in financial aid to 27 ex-rebels via the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. (Photo courtesy of Area Police Command-Western Mindanao)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) awarded PHP3.06 million financial assistance to 27 former rebels under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

The financial assistance was handed over to the former New People’s Army (NPA) fighters by DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr., who flew to Zamboanga del Sur on Friday to welcome them back to the fold of the law.

A total of 72 firearms were likewise presented for demilitarization.

In a statement, Abalos said the surrender makes all the hard work of the government to quash insurgency all worth it.

Abalos addressed the surrenderers as “friends rescued”, saying they were cheated and taken advantage of by the real enemies of the state.

“We wish that today (Friday) is the beginning of your peaceful life,” Abalos told the former rebels during the demilitarization and E-CLIP assistance ceremony at the Pavillion Hall of the Provincial Government Complex in Pagadian City.

Col. Richard Verceles, Area Police Command-Western Mindanao operations chief, said Saturday that of the 27 recipients of the financial assistance, 17 are from Zamboanga del Norte, four are from Zamboanga Sibugay and six are from Zamboanga del Sur.

It brought the total number of rebels who surrendered to 8,889 as of July 31 since E-CLIP was signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 under Administrative Order No. 10.

E-CLIP helps the rebel members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front and the usually unarmed Militia ng Bayan members to restore their allegiance to the Philippine government.

Through the program, they can be reintegrated back to the community, be with their families, and start over with their new lives with financial and other benefits.

“Marbie”, one of the surrenderers, said she regretted joining the NPA.

“With the hardships I experienced, I asked the Lord to return to my family. I thank the military for taking us in and being the way of my conversion,” she said in her testimony during the program.

Abalos thanked the ex-insurgents for heeding the offer of peace by the government.

Kakampi ninyo ang gobyerno at handa kaming tulungan kayo sa inyong pagbabagong-buhay. Katulad ng sinabi ni Pangulong Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., sama-sama tayong babangong muli (The government is on your side and we are ready to help you in your new life. Like what President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said, together we will rise again),” Abalos said. (PNA)