FROM REBEL TO RETURNEE: A FORMER REBEL’S HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
It was an unusually warm day in Malaybalay, well-known for its cold January weather, when I first met Jose (not his real name).
Jose used to be a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). He surrendered to the government on January 2020 in hopes of living a new life.
He said that he has heard of the government’s program through flyers and pamphlets passed around his neighborhood. He has also heard such information announced through the radio. Upon knowing this, he was thrilled that the rebels, like himself, will be embraced by the government should they choose to surrender.
Jose finalized his plan to surrender around November of 2019 when he found out that his relatives were among the targets of “liquidation” and were to be harassed if persisted. Liquidation is the term used by the insurgency groups in harassing their members once they knew of their planned surrender.
Exactly a year after his decision, Jose, along with his former comrades, receive the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) benefits promised to them by the government. The benefits include immediate assistance worth P15,000.00, livelihood assistance of P50,000.00, and firearms remuneration in the amount that is double the cost valuation of the turned-in ammunition.
By January of 2020, Jose said he finally made his move.
“Nangita ko ug tiempo nga maka-takas. Pag naog nako, gi tagbo ko ug isa ka myembro sa Special Force ug iya kong gi tabangan,” he said. He also recalled that he was welcomed by the government troops unharmed.
Right after, Jose has undergone deradicalization program and psychoanalysis focusing on understanding and overcoming his trauma that led him to joining the movement.
This led him to the realization that the government is indeed helping the ex-rebels to start anew contradicting the narrative inside the movement which proved to be nothing but lies.
Remembering the abuse
Jose remembered that he was happy when he stayed in their village even though it was located in a hinterland area with little economic opportunity.
He then recounted the day he joined the communist party. A group of drunk armed men in uniforms went to their village in Brgy. Licoan, Sumilao and started harassing the villagers.
The then 22-year-old Jose was mauled in a corner, beaten to a pulp, and was forced to bite an M-16 rifle that resulted to a broken tooth.
“Boluntaryo gyud ko nag sulod sa NPA kay tungod sa akong kasuko. Kani baya gyung kina-iya sa tao, pag suko na kaayo, di na kabalo mag huna-huna.”
Feeling hopeless, he joined because of anger and was convinced of the NPA’s narrative about the government’s apathy towards the people’s poverty.
It was in 2013 when he joined the NPA. He spent two years inside the movement where he served as a commander and surgeon. He said that he is fueled with anger which made him stay in the movement. During this time, he has suffered hunger and fatigue walking for days in the mountains.
Now, Jose wants to put his past behind him and to simply look forward for a better future.
Hope for the future
Since the institutionalization of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 or ‘Whole-of-Nation’ Approach in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict in 2018, many of the rebels have already made peace with the government. The government agencies have complemented all their efforts in attaining sustainable peace to finally end insurgency in the country.
Jose said that he will always be grateful to the government and reintegrating to the society is the best decision for him especially now that he can be with his family.
“Nakatabang gyud ni nga program nga gihatag sa amoa sa gobyerno. Gi atiman mi ug ayo, sukwahi sa gi ingon sa komunista. Salamat kayo sa DILG ug sa ubang ahensya nga nitabang sa amoa.”
When I asked Jose of his plans for the future, he merely said that he is hopeful for his new life. (DILG 10/Bukidnon/Daphne Kirstie Fabria)