Gov’t offers fresh start for Reds, other dissidents

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The government claimed success over a new “social integration program” for members of armed dissident groups which was formally opened yesterday in Quezon province.

Under the program, 30 former rebels from Southern Tagalog were awarded with financial assistance by Gov. Rafael P. Nantes together with Undersecretary Pedro Cesar C. Ramboanga Jr., of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), with the presence of Major General Roland Detabali, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, and other representatives of various line government agencies.

The program, which was held at the Quezon National Agricultural School (QNAS) in Bgy. Malicboy, Pagbilao, gives a set of “interventions” to members of dissident groups to facilitate their integration into mainstream society.

The first batch of beneficiaries are former active members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Detabali told People’s Tonight that the program is guided by the principle of convergence and cooperation primarily between the different national and local agencies of the government, non-government institutions and organizations and local communities as well.

“Each stakeholder plays a unique role in the integration process,” Detabali added.

For its part, the national government, through OPAPP, gives an immediate cash assistance of P20,000 to former rebels.

This is aside from the government’s earlier decision to increase the renumeration for surrendered firearms, explosives and ammunition, with an assault rifle now being paid at P50,000 per surrendered firearm.

To better prepare those wanting to start a new life after returning to the fold of the law, returnees are also given livelihood skills development, job placement, educational assistance, health services, or access to other basic social services that can greatly help them in rebuilding their lives with their respective families and communities.

The OPAPP is headed by former Armed Forces chief of staff, Sec. Hermogenes Esperon and is in the frontline of doing peace talks with the CPP-NPA and Muslim separatist groups in Mindanao.

Detabali said they expect more guerillas to quit the underground movement as seek better lives through the SIP.