The Philippine Army’s 53rd Infantry “MATAPAT” Battalion (53IB) marked the 1st Commencement Exercises for 41 Friends Rescued in a simple ceremony held on January 21, 2022, at 53IB Headquarters, Camp Sabido, Villanueva Road, Guipos, Zamboanga del Sur, as part of its 37th Founding Anniversary celebrations with the theme “MATAPAT@37: Victory in Time of Convergence.”
Guests of honor and speakers included Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Kristine Y. Evangelista and Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) Chairperson and Governor Victor J. Yu.
Brig. Gen. Jose Randolf Sino Cruz, Assistant Division Commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division (1ID), Project Good Life President Dr. Moibe F. Olitres, and other stakeholders, including provincial and regional directors of national government agencies (NGAs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) in Zamboanga del Sur and Region 9, were also present.
Dr. Moibe Olitres, president of the Good Life Academy, discussed Project Good Life’s milestones and the results of assessments of FRs’ overall happiness, optimism, satisfaction, mindset, mental health, and wellbeing.
“I always tell everyone that Project Good Life is ours. We cannot achieve these milestones without collaborative efforts coming from all our stakeholders,” Dr. Olitres said.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, the 53IB Commanding Officer, stated that this is a new beginning in the lives of the FRs.
“We are soldiers, and our skills are primarily in warfighting. But because of the evolving operational environment, the army and stakeholders converge to end the local communist armed conflict in Zamboanga del Sur,” Lt. Col. Herrera said.
“We were able to decisively accomplish this 10-month Psychoeducation project intended to sustain the peace and help the FRs in their transformation to become responsible and productive citizens,” he added.
Brig. Gen. Jose Randolf Sino Cruz, 1ID Assistant Division Commander, also commended the FRs.
“Congratulations to all the completers. This is proof that the Whole-of-Nation Approach in this province is effective,” said Brig. Gen. Cruz.
Likewise, Usec. Evangelista congratulated the FRs on a job well done.
“Congratulations for exerting your best efforts, FRs! After months of learning necessary knowledge and skills, you are now prepared for your reintegration into mainstream society,” said USec. Evangelista.
Gov. Yu also praised the 53IB for facilitating the FRs’ development through Project Good Life.
“I express my deepest gratitude and congratulations to the 53IB for professionally taking care of our FRs, who are also our constituents. You have shown to them that there is a wonderful life that awaits them,” said Gov. Yu.
“This should not be the end of your learning endeavor; this is just the end of a chapter that helped you realize that there is more to be learned. You will be gaining more once you keep an open mind, and we hope that we have smoothly guided you back to the mainstream society,” he added.
The 53IB, in collaboration with various organizations and national government agencies, launched Project Good Life For Friends Rescued (FRs), a 10-month inclusive Wellbeing Psychoeducation Program (Pneuma or Spirit-Psyche or Soul-Soma (Body) Holistic Care Research and Community Extension Program.
Its goal is to apply the findings of the initial strength-based research study among former rebels of the 53IB to community extension work. It’s a need-based program for FRs to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s EO 70, which formalizes the president’s Whole-of-Nation Approach to ending the country’s local communist armed conflict.