COTABATO CITY – A former communist rebel in North Cotabato who surrendered last month said he had no regrets yielding to the government to live a peaceful life with his family.
“I was duped in the past. I was told being with the communist movement was fruitful and fulfilling,” said Ka Menard, 40, a former member of Guerilla Front 53 of the New People’s Army (NPA) and is now a beneficiary of a government livelihood program in Tulunan, North Cotabato.
Menard said life as a civilian is vastly different from his life hiding in the mountains, as he is free to go wherever he wishes and is no longer afraid of seeing or getting close with the authorities.
“The government program is real, fruitful,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and Ilonggo dialects.
Menard was one of the 20 beneficiaries of an animal dispersal program of the North Cotabato provincial government on Friday after community development workers (CDWs) assessed and qualified him to be a recipient of the carabao dispersal program.
His other request was for the government to help him send his four children to school to give them a “future so they will not be lured to the underground movement.”
The enlistment of CDWs is part of the provincial government’s initiatives in support of the government’s End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) program that has gained the attention of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) 12 (Soccsksargen).
The initiative includes the immersion of development workers to help them determine what the former combatants need and what the government has to offer to them.
“This clearly shows the commitment of the provincial government to effectively implement ELCAC by deploying development workers as support mechanism of the program,” said Ian Jon Clemente, DILG -12 focal person for the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 70 on the local government’s deployment of CDWs.
EO 70, issued by President Rodrigo Duterte in late 2018, aims to institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating a national task force to end local armed conflict and the adoption of a national peace framework.
On Thursday, Clemente met with North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco and informed her of the DILG’s assessment of the province’s implementation of EO 70.
“This is one of the best practices of the region,” he said.
Catamco has earlier pushed for the deployment of CDWs who will assess villages involved in the ELCAC program and help the government identify further intervention that could be applied to improve and effectively enforce the ELCAC program.
She said one of the innovations implemented by the provincial government with regards to the ELCAC program, is the animal dispersal, where NPA surrenderers receive farm animals as livelihood assistance.
On Friday, 20 ELCAC program beneficiaries in barangays Banayal and Bituan in Tulunan, North Cotabato received cows and carabaos.
Next week, Catamco said the provincial government’s “Local Serbisyo Caravan” would start rolling again to ELCAC-covered villages “to bring genuine government services to communities affected by decades of armed conflict. (PNA)