By: Flory Ann Tacuban
The Local Government Unit (LGU) of Tubungan, Iloilo has been providing opportunities services to rebel returnees since 2012 two years before the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip).
E-Clip is mandated by Executive Order No. 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid to end the armed insurgency. It is implemented by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
A group of rebel returnees dubbed TAGPDA (Tubungan Amnesty Grantees for Peace and Development Association) was organized by the LGU under its Tubong-Tubong Project with help from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Philippine Army to provide sustainable programs to returnees to be productive and to prepare them for reintegration to mainstream society.
The TAGPDA program includes services the LGU can offer if rebels decide to return to the folds of the government such as formal employment whether local and abroad through skills training, livelihood projects which includes giving of cattle, sari-sari store or swine production and values formation conducted by the Parish Pastoral Council.
Through E-Clip, former rebels are offered a more holistic package of benefits such as education, housing, medical assistance, legal assistance, firearms remuneration, psychosocial assistance, market livelihood and employment opportunities.
Municipal Labor and Employment Officer Emelyn Tano said the program was established in 2012 to address Tubungan’s reputation as a ‘red tag’ area since the 1980s.
“The LGU did this to bring the government closer to the people and to urge them that the purpose of this program is to let them know (rebels) that may nagahulat nga programs and services for them kun magbalik sanda sa sabak kang gobyerno unlike their misconception nga basi i-threat sanda or patyon,” Tano said.
Each rebel received a livelihood assistance of one head cattle and cash remuneration for every firearm they surrender.
In 2020, DOLE is allotting P3.5 million for insurgency affected areas to be facilitated by the PESO (Public Employment Service Office), with Tubungan as one of its beneficiaries.
Data from the Former Rebel Information System indicated that a total 40 rebel returnees availed of these programs and services and the LGU is also assessing rebel returnees so that they can pass the criteria.
The LGU also ensured that the rebels will not go back to their old ways after receiving the E-Clip benefits.
“Nagbalik loob ako sa gobyerno kay budlay kung gasunod kaw sa hublag bala kay gamo tapo s kis-a nalipasan pa kamo kang kagutom kay gapanago kamo, kapin pa kun may operation ang Army budlay pa gid kay rayo kaw sa pamilya mo,” according to Alias Nona, 53, former Head Officer of the Alliance of Mass Campaign.
The former rebels said the LGU and E-Clip programs changed their lives.
“Didto man kami nagkilalahay kang bana ko sa hublag. Indi man pwede nga sige sunod mo sa grupo tapos may bata kaw nga naatipan. Alangan mo ra dar-on ma bakwit. Amo to nagtukod kami kang pamilya kag nagdesisyon kami bala nga magwa na lang kag mangabuhi ti malinong,” Nona added.
Ka Nona left the group together with her husband who became the president of their organization. She influenced others by becoming a living example that a rebel can change if one wants to through Balik Loob programs.
“Wara ako ga-take initiative nga manghaylo gid sa mga rebels nga dyan pa sa bukid gapanago nga mabalik sa goyerno bala kay delikado. Ang akon lang nga sanda mismo makatalupangod paagi sa kun paano da makita ang pagbalhin kang kabuhi namon,” she added.
Now, Ka Nona’s daughter is a registered nurse in United Kingdom and her son is a priest in South Africa.
Another returnee, Rosa, said she is thankful for the government intervention. She is now a teacher in a barangay Day Care Center of the municipality through the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Five rebel returnees also underwent and successfully completed Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) trainings that enable them to work abroad.
“Napaminsaran namon nga kung mabato kami sa gobyerno kag magamit kang pakusog nga paagi. Kami ang pierde kay nasugal amon kabuhi, ti indi sabat ang armas kun gusto mo nga magbag-o ang sistema kang gobyerno kay ang pagbag-o dapat kanimo mismo maghalin,” according to Ka Badong, another former rebel.
Ka Lino became a Bantay-Gubat Forest Protection Officer under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR) program.
Lino helps deter illegal activities in the forest and preserve the wildlife since he knows the terrains after staying in the mountains for a long time.
“Tungod ka dya makaturog ron kami ti mahamuok nga wara ti kakulba bala tapos namon ronda,” he added.
Four rebel returnees also became officials on their respective barangays.
The LGU also employed Ka Stanley as a job order employee for almost 10 years.
The Philippine Army had commended Tubungan for implementing programs for rebel returnees that came into being even before the present administration conceptualized it.
“Livelihood program is an opportunity for the surrenderees’ potential source of income and make the returnees busy, thus it prevents them from going back to their armed struggle and being an agricultural town, the lives of the people depend on farming,” Labor and Employment Officer Emelyn Tano said.
Now these surrenderees became active citizens of the society and are actively participating in government programs.
“Kung ipatawag sanda [during their monthly meetings] naga-attend sanda kag they are free to suggest plans kun ano ang makapamayad sa banwa unlike sang una nga sa bukid sanda kag nagarebelde,” Tano added.
“The LGU is sincere to improve the lives of our surrenderees by giving them sustainable source of livelihood for their families we are hoping that more rebels will return to the fold of law and seek a peaceful and productive life,” Tubungan Mayor RoquitoTacsagon said.