BACOLOD CITY – After having been displaced by the armed encounters between government troops and communist rebels last month, residents of Barangay Carabalan in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental took a stand for a conflict-free community and withdrew support from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) during an indignation rally over the weekend.
In a statement on Monday, Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, commander of the Philippine Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion (IB) which facilitated the activity, lauded the residents for their decision to condemn the atrocities of the communist-terrorists.
“The willingness of the residents in condemning the CPP-NPA shows they have been longing to live in a place where peace is paramount and opportunity for development is coming,” he said.
During the rally at the Carabalan gymnasium, former rebel “James” shared his experience as a member of the CPP-NPA for 14 years as he warned parents to protect their children from being recruited by communist- terrorists.
He also admitted being deceived by propaganda that gave him false hopes, the same reason why former CPP-NPA community organizers abandoned the communist ideology.
They are now availing of benefits from the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program that grants livelihood, educational, housing and financial assistance, among others.
“Various agencies of the government, other partners for peace, and the residents will continue to work hand-in-hand to achieve a lasting peace in Himamaylan,” Almonte said.
According to the 94IB, the rally was supported by local officials led by village chief Mildred Titular and sitio (sub-community) leaders, together with the Philippine National Police’s Himamaylan City Police Station and 604th Company of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion-Western Visayas.
Last month, 5,444 families in Carabalan and three adjacent villages, including one in the neighboring Binalbagan town, were affected by the series of clashes that started Oct. 6.
On Oct. 16, evacuees from Sitios Palayan and Guia in Barangay Cabadiangan, as well as those from other sub-communities in Barangay Carabalan, were allowed to return home.
After the main encounter sites in Barangay Carabalan were cleared by the military, residents of Sitios Medel, Campaya, and Sig-ang also left the evacuation centers on Oct. 19.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development-Western Visayas data showed the affected residents received a total of PHP11.81 million worth of assistance, of which PHP10.01 million in cash aid were distributed to more than 3,000 displaced families under the Armed Conflict Financial Assistance program. (PNA)