KIDAPAWAN CITY – North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco on Friday lauded 70 former communist rebels who are now ready for reintegration into mainstream society after completing their 15-day deradicalization program.
“I am happy that you have survived. May you live normal and productive lives hence,” Catamco said in a statement released to media.
After completing the 15-day program on June 28, they stayed for several days at the headquarters of the Army's 72nd Infantry Battalion (72IB) for the processing of their certificates and benefits before returning to their respective families.
The former rebels once operated in the areas covered by the 72IB, the maneuver unit of the 10th Infantry Division. These areas include Magpet, President Roxas, Antipas, and Kidapawan City in the province.
“Now, your mission is primarily to facilitate sustainable peace in your communities,” Catamco told the former NPA fighters in the same statement.
She said she was emotional after learning from military reports that 98 percent of the NPA recruits belonged to the indigenous peoples’ (IP) communities.
"As the first IP governor of North Cotabato, I am more concern(ed) on the welfare and future of the indigenous communities,” she said.
Catamco, who was also present during the recent graduation of the former rebels, said aside from certificates of completion, 57 graduates from North Cotabato received a total cash of PHP855,000.
The 13 other rebels will receive cash from Bukidnon’s provincial government.
“Each received PHP15,000 cash as startup capital for whatever income-generating project they will engage in and grocery items plus rice,” she said.
A certain alias Diwata, 30, who joined the communist organization when she was 16, said the deradicalization program had taught her that turning against the government is wrong.
“I came to realize that no matter how the revolution tries, it will not succeed against the government. It is better we join the government so peace can be attained for us,” she said in the vernacular.
In a separate statement, Brig. Gen. Potenciano Camba, 1002nd Infantry Brigade commander, also lauded the former rebels for choosing the right path by rejoining the mainstream.
“The government loves you. Always bear that in mind and be an inspiration of hope in your communities,” Camba said.
The deradicalization program for former communist rebels is under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, a whole-of-nation approach aimed at bringing the communist rebels to the mainstream by extending government services to them through various government agencies.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, together with the NPA being its armed wing, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)