The final chapter of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front’s (CPP-NPA-NDF) reign of terror has now been written off as more local government units (LGUs) have joined this administration in condemning the atrocities of these lawless groups by declaring as persona non grata in their respective localities.
At the weekly virtual press briefing of the National Task Force to End Local Communists Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Thursday, Interior and Local Government Assistant Director Rene Valera revealed that 74 of the country’s 81 provinces already passed resolutions condemning the atrocities of these Communist groups and declared them as persona non grata.
Valera said other LGUs who have echoed their support to the whole of nation approach of the NTF-ELCAC and declared them as persona non grata are 26,353 barangays (villages), 1,436 municipalities, and 110 cities across the country.
The NTF-ELCAC Representative from the Local Government Empowerment Cluster, Basic Services Cluster, and Local Peace Engagement Cluster and Barangay Development Program (BDP) also said the LGUs in the 74 provinces were also given orientations on how to process the BDP, which is intended for 1,406 barangays for 2022.
Valera added that 1,403 villages have also undergone barangay development planning for these communities to choose their priority projects funded by the BDP.
“Convergence initiatives like pulong-pulong (village meeting) with local ELCAC task force, local peacebuilders dialogue,” Valera said, were also conducted to improve the lives of the residents of the barangays “without” the CPP-NPA-NDF.
On the other hand, Navy Capt. Ferdinand Buscato, Executive Director of the Task Force Balik Loob of NTF-ELCAC, reported that a total of 20,579 former rebels (FRs) have already surrendered and are now living a normal life with full support from the government.
Out of the 20,579 surrenderers nationwide, Buscato said 827 gave up in 2016; 741 in 2017; 7,719 in 2018; 2,638 in 2019; 2,080 in 2020, and 6,175 surrendered in 2021.
Buscato also said the NTF-ELCAC has assisted 25,942 FRs to study and graduate from the various courses of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to increase their capability of returning to normal lives and commune again with society.
“The difference in the number is that their (former rebels) relatives were included (in TESDA courses),” he explained, adding that a total of 4,865 FRs were given employment through TESDA.
Buscato, who is also a Representative of the NTF-ELCAC’s E-Clip (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) and Amnesty Cluster, said other member agencies of the task force also contributed greatly to the FRs return to the folds of the law.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), he said, has extended social protection and psychological help to a total of 13,085 FRs, while the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has assisted 3,229 FRs to gain employment and 7,321 more for its TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) program.
He added that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has also given its share by providing livelihood assistance to 3,513 FRs. While the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has extended immediate assistance to 6,171 FRs.
The NTF-ELCAC in its entirety along with other government agencies that belong to the “whole-of-nation-approach” initiated no less than by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had spent PHP92.460 million from 2018 to 2021 in helping FRs.
Buscato added that 623 FRs are now enlisted in the regular forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) working as Civilian Armed Auxiliary. With another 192 FRs already employed by the Philippines National Police (PNP) as Non-Uniform Personnel (NUP).
The remaining FRs were trained to form people’s organizations and cooperatives to have better lives in their former conflict-affected communities. While 226 of them were also provided with housing units in this year alone.
The Land Bank of the Philippines was also instrumental in providing financial loans to 15 FRs who wished to venture into agri-business.
Meanwhile, TESDA Cluster Secretariat Head, Director Glenn Murphy reported that 802 of the 822 barangays programmed for this year’s BDP are now 97 percent nearing its target. While 721 of the barangays with ongoing BDP projects have reached 85 percent completion.
These include solar power installations for electricity and water for communities, the establishment of “bagsakan” or food hubs, and skills training for construction and agriculture, the NTF-ELCAC’s Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster also said.
The three NTF-ELCAC Cluster representatives were one in saying that the task force will continue its program of actions even with the slashed approved budget for 2022.
“Poverty reduction is a whole-of-nation-approach to sustain the former conflict-affected barangays,” they said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the National Democratic Front as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. — PR