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Former NPA ‘amazon’ now enjoys motherhood, community service

“When I surrendered, it’s when I felt that I’m a human being in this world. I’m free to roam around. I could celebrate my birthday. I could celebrate new year’s with my family. I’m human indeed!”

This was how Cheche (not her real name) described her freedom and how she is regaining a normal life, after surrendering and returning into the fold of the law.

Cheche just marked her second year of liberty on November 7. For two years, she said, she has been in peace, enjoying her present life as a mother, wife, community servant, and peace and order defender and advocate.

The story of Cheche’s transformation from being a member of the communist rebel group holding a crucial position for 21 years into a family-oriented and peace advocate always resonates in gatherings where she shares her narratives. (Photo from 73IB)

Since her surrender in 2021, she said, “First time nasinati ang tinuod nga kinabuhi sa pamilya. Nakita ang hinabangan sa gobyerno, unsaon ang pagpalambo, unsaon pag atiman sa FRs (It’s my first time to experience the true life of a family. I’ve seen the assistance of the government. I’ve seen how to progress, how to care for the FRs). The best. I’m so happy!”

Cheche shared that she was a former secretary and commander under the South Regional Committee TALA (Tangali Latian) of the communist armed group, or the New People’s Army, which operated in the mountain boundaries of the municipalities of Malita and Don Marcelino in Davao Occidental, and municipalities of Alabel and Malapatan in Sarangani Province.

Guerilla Front TALA was composed of now dismantled Guerrilla Fronts 75 and 71. The fronts were dismantled as a result of the implementation of Executive Order No. 70, or the Whole-of-Nation Approach on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), which made the province insurgency-free last year.

“Sayop ang prinsipyo (their principle was wrong),” she said on her realization and on why she decided to surrender and go back to normal life.

Cheche led the mass surrender of 34 comrades in 2021.

“Naluoy ko sa akong pamilya. Kung magpabilin ko sa sitwasyon sa pagka rebelde, dili nako matabangan ang mga tawo (I felt sorry for my family. If I remain in my situation as a rebel, I could not help the people).”

She said the worst experience was when commanding wars against the government soldiers, where they had barely eaten because of food blockage.

When she surrendered, what came to her mind first was to utilize her capabilities positively.

“Gusto nakong mahimong CAFGU. Gusto nakong makatabang sa tropa ug sa LGU. Bilang secretary ka, daghang nahibal-an, sama sa unsaon pag organisa sa masa ug unsaon paspas mapasabot ug mabali ang isip sa masa (I wanted to be a CAFGU. I wanted to help our troops and the LGU. As a secretary, I knew a lot like organizing the masses, on how to make them understand, and on how to reverse their minds).”

Cheche shares to government communicators how proud she is to be part of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) where she can serve the communities and be a staunch peace defender and advocate. (Photo by JMS/PIA-XI)

Cheche emphasized, “Nag volunteer ko bilang CAFGU, para maka serve sa Army, para matabangan nga mas ma free pa sa insurgency ang probinsya (I volunteered to be a CAFGU to serve the Army, to help the province be insurgency-free).”

Wearing her uniform, she said she is a proud member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

CAFGUs are force multipliers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, providing vital military intelligence, joining traditional and non-traditional military operations, securing conflict-affected communities, and acting as first responders during disasters.

The story of Cheche’s transformation from being a member of the communist rebel group holding a crucial position for 21 years into a family-oriented and peace advocate always resonates in gatherings where she shares her narratives.

More than 100 former rebels participate in the first Friends Rescued Summit in Malita, Davao Occidental. (Photo from 73IB)

Just recently, she recounted her story during the first Friends Rescued Summit held in the municipality of Malita, Davao Occidental, where 102 FRs from Malita, Sta. Maria, Don Marcelino, and Jose Abad Santos areas converged for the first time.

The Davao Occidental provincial government, in partnership with the 73rd Infantry Battalion, spearheaded the summit, where the FRs were treated to fun-filled activities and were provided with various assistance from government agencies.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development Office (DSWDO) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) facilitated the pay-out of cash 

assistance worth P2,000 and P5,000, respectively, to each of the FRs. While, Vice-Governor Lorna Bautista Bandigan provided backpacks with flashlights.

TESDA-Davao Occidental conducted skills training in cookery and bread and pastry making, while DOLE-Davao Occidental facilitated profiling and registration for the TUPAD project.

The Provincial Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) conducted a basketball tournament and parlor games as part of the team-building activities.

Apart from the assistance provided during the summit, the FRs automatically benefited from the livelihood assistance from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) upon their surrender.

Cheche had her share of assistance, such as housing and scholarship assistance, from the provincial local government of Davao Occidental.

She was also given farming tools and cash assistance for her small grocery, or “sari-sari” store.

“Dakong tabang ni. Giluwas ko sa kalisod. Feel nako ang pag palangga sa gobyerno. Gikalaban nako sila, pero nabati nako ang pag amuma sa tropa (This helped a lot. It alleviated me from difficulty. I felt the care of the government. I fought against them, but I felt the care of the troops),” she shared.

73rd Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Jaicris Jan Mendoza said they are strengthening collaborations with the local government units and national government agencies to provide for the welfare of the FRs through basic social services, and to ensure that they will not go back to rebellion. (CLC/PIA-XI)

Cheche enjoys a normal life with family, work, and community, such as participating in livelihood trainings provided by government agencies. (Photo from 73IB)

About the Author

Carina Cayon

Regional Editor

Region 11

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