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Rebel Returnees as Peacebuilders in Eastern Samar

Eastern Samar Peacebuilders Group

March 11, 2021

BORONGAN, Eastern Samar – The government has further intensified the campaign against communist rebels. Apart from the intensified military operations and the neutralization of the communist rebel personalities, the government is also utilizing the former rebels turned peacebuilders as their allies.

About 31 former rebels, yunit militia, organizers, and mass supporters in Eastern Samar have expressed support to help convince their former comrades to turn their back from the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) during an assembly held in Barangay Lalawigan, Borongan City on Tuesday, March 9, 2021.

Ka Olive, a former rebel and President of the Eastern Samar Peacebuilders Group could not hide her happiness as she looks back on how the local government and law enforcement agencies helped her after surrendering two years ago. She said she was not only given a second chance to be reunited with her family but was also given financial assistance so she can start anew.

“Malaki ang support nila (gobyerno) sa amin, dahil kung wala siguro ay bumalık na kami doon sa bundok. Malaki na rin ang pagkakaiba ng buhay namin ngayon kaysa noong nasa sa bundok na wala kang aasahan; sa gobyerno natin malaki ang pag-asa, marami ang tumulong at tutulong, maraming proyekto ang binibigay sa amin,” Ka Olive said.

She added with the creation of the peacebuilders group in Eastern Samar, peace-building efforts and livelihood opportunities among the returnees will be strengthened. It will also pave the way for more members of the CTG to lay down their weapons and return to the folds of the law.

Another returnee, Ka Dendong, assured the government of his full support in addressing the decades-long insurgency problem in Eastern Visayas. He now leads the campaign against the deceptive recruitment of the New People’s Army encouraging youth not to be deceived by the false ideology of the NPA, and how the communist group used legal organizations like Anakbayan, Kabataan Partylist, and Karapatan to recruit students and youth to join the armed struggle between the Armed Forces and NPA.

“Nakatulong kami di lang sa aming barangay maging sa ibang tao, at makatulong sa ating gobyerno na tapusin na ang mga NPA na walang mabuting naidudulot sa atin,” Ka Dendong added.

Meanwhile, the 17-year old Ka Lyn, one of the rebel returnees is hoping that like her, more youth who were recruited by the NPA will finally decide to leave the armed struggle. Like Ka Olive and Ka Dendong, she was also convinced to be part of the rebel group because of their promise that she will be sent to school to finish her education but instead become an extortion collector in Balangiga town.

“Araw-araw nangongolekta ako ng pera sa mga magsasaka. Kada buwan may naiipon akong tatlong libo na binibigay ko sa kilusan. Kalaunan di ko na kayang mangolekta lalo na sa mga magsasaka na hirap tustusan ang kanilang pamilya,” Ka Lyn said.

The Commanding Officer of the 78th Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver C. Alvior said the Philippine Army and the Local Government Units are doing the localize peace talks since military solution alone is not the solution to the decades-long insurgency problem in Eastern Visayas.

“Grassroots yong ating approach, sila na nandoon sa barangay, so when we organized them we are identifying yong mga issues that are being used by the communist terrorist group in exploiting them. So if we correctly identify yong mga issues na yon, then we can provide the correct interventions, so in doing so we can help them return to the mainstream, and prepare them through proper interventions prepare them to become productive citizen,” said LtCol. Alvior.

LtCol. Alvior added with the full support of the peacebuilders and the community more NPA rebels are expressing to surrender and avail of the programs offered by the government to the rebel returnees.

“Pag nakita ng mga kasamahan nila na nasa bundok pa, then it could be a testament, evidence na the government is not only talking but putting into actions yong ano yong mga nakasaad na objectives ng EO 70. So pagmakita ng mga kasamahan nila yan and then less effort from us sila na mismo ang magconvince kasi sila yong may mga contacts, sila yong magcoconvince to follow their footsteps withdraw allegiance with the communist party,” LtCol. Alvior said.

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