After years of cover-up and of keeping information about their connections with the Communist Terrorist Group (CTGs), 10 former rebels (FRs), mostly barangay officials have finally disclosed their secrets and surrendered this information to police authorities.
“Rafael,” not his real name, is a barangay official in one of the upland areas in Hamtic, Antique, and one of the 10 who surrendered to police authorities recently.
“Huud, sangka Barangay Official ako kag lisud magtago ka impormasyon tuhoy sa presensya kang mga armado nga grupo sa amun barangay tungod sa kahadluk,” he said in Kinaray-a. (Yes, I am a barangay official, and it was hard for me to conceal the information about the presence of the CTGs in our barangay because of fear for our lives.)
Rafael was then a member of a militia group of the New People’s Army and at the same time worked as a barangay kagawad receiving remuneration from the government.
To him, it was one of the most difficult situations he had been through as a barangay official and he knew one day authorities would get over them.
It was in November last year that Rafael and his team were able to meet government troops during the Caravan of Services and Information related to the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 or the whole-of-nation approach to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict (ELCAC).
This event was organized by the Provincial Task Force ELCAC chaired by Governor Rhodora J. Cadiao with Peace and Order and Public Safety Consultant headed by its Convenor Margie L. Gadian.
Aside from the medical and dental mission, distribution of food packs and relief goods, and information caravan, the barangay officials of the 10 upland barangays in Hamtic were invited to sit with the government authorities and members of the Task Force.
It was during the said meeting in Bongbongan III, that locals had the chance to discuss their concerns which led to the signing of a pledge of commitment denouncing the CTGs and committing support to government authorities.
Another FR named “John” (not his real name), also came out and shared his experiences as a Barangay Tanod, at the same time designated as a “lookout” of the communist terrorist group operating in the upland areas of Hamtic.
He also narrated how hard it was for him to get along with the CTGs while working to safeguard the welfare of his “kasimaryo” (fellow residents) against the CTG’s interest.
“Nabudlayan gid kami sa dya nga sitwasyon,” he said. (The situation was really hard, then).
But after the initial meet-ups in November 2022, a series of community visits and engagements followed through.
“Nalipay gid kami nga pirme kami ginabisitahan ka mga police ridya sa amun barangay,” said Rafael. (We really appreciate the frequent visits of police authorities in our barangay)
Rafael, John, and their companions expressed gratitude for the initiatives of the ELCAC Task Force for paving the way for them to get back to the government.
In a separate interview, the team of Police Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Artillero of the First Antique Mobile Force Company said that they often visited the barangays in the uplands as a way of assuring them that the government is working to ensure they are safe and protected.
Artillero shared that these FRs had long been identified by the troops even before the meeting in November last year.
“They can no longer deny their true affiliations with the CTGs,” he said with a note of appreciation for these FRs for the trust they are giving to the police force to bring them back to the folds of the government.
As part of the ELCAC Task Force, various agencies of the government have also extended their support to these communities in the form of livelihood programs, education assistance for children, and skills training programs, among others.
The documents of the said FRs are now in the process for them to avail of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
Thus, the Provincial and Municipal Social Welfare and Development Offices have conducted a profiling of these FRs for inclusion in the said program.
The said local government units likewise provided initial assistance so they could start their life anew with their families.
When asked about their other needs aside from livelihood and family support, the FRs requested the establishment of concrete road networks in the upland barangays.
“Mas madali makadab-ot kanamun ang serbisyo kang gobyerno kun nami ang karsada kag mahapos man kanamun magbaligya kang amun produkto sa tindahan.” (With better road networks, government services would be accessible to us and it will also provide easy conveyance of our farm produce to the market).
Both Rafael and John shared optimism and joy for the presence of government troops in their barangays, saying that they felt more secure and at peace.
They also expressed excitement in anticipation of the support they could get from the government and for the livelihood projects they are planning to venture into if they will be given aid by the government.
PSWDO Focal Officer James Rubino reported a total of 66 FRS who returned to the folds of the government since the implementation of E0 70.
These FRs have also availed government support for their integration into their families and communities.
With more projects and assistance given to the less-privileged communities, the local TF ELCAC is hoping to gain more ground in the campaign against the communist terrorist groups. (AGP/PSM/PIA Antique)