Ex-rebel ends years of hiding for a better life

Former Rebel Alyas "Riza" receives a sack of rice and a check worth P65,000 from the government during the ECLIP Assistance Turnover Ceremony held on March 21, 2024 at the PNP Provincial Headquarters, Sibulan Negros Oriental. Handingover the assistance are Gov. Manuel "Chaco" Sagarbarria (4th from right) and Provincial Board Member Jessica Villanueva (from from right). Joining them are Provincial Agriculturist Emmanuel Caduyac and DILG - 7 PDMU Chief Rommel Correa. (Photo courtesy of 62nd IB of the Philippine Army)

Riza (not her real name) is a former rebel in her 20s who vowed never to fall again for the propaganda pushed by Communist-Terrorist-Groups (CTGs).

Riza recalls the hardships she and her husband went through while living in the forests in the hinterlands of Negros Oriental to avoid being detected by the military.

“Kung naa ka sa armado, ulan, init, kagutom  ang imong matagamtaman. Ang amoang pamaagi dili mi molihok bisan paglung-ag namo dili mi molung-ag ana panahuna kay kung manglung-ag mi mo-aso gud na. Mabal-an na naay nagpuyo diha. Ang amo katulugan naa lang sa duyan,” she said.

(When you’re part of the rebel movement, you have to endure humidity, rains, and hunger. We don’t even cook rice for fear that the smoke will alert people to our presence. We also sleep in hammocks.)

Riza soon realized that the stories spun to them by the CTGs were just lies. It was for this reason, and also because she could no longer bear being separated from her children, that she decided to leave the armed struggle.

In 2022, she was able to convince her husband to join her in returning to the folds of the law.

Riza is one of the 14 former rebels who received livelihood and financial assistance from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the provincial government here on March 21 at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Sibulan town.

She said her life has greatly improved after she decided to leave the rebel movement.

“Og dili tungod sa gobyerno hangtod karon nagpabilin mi sa kabukiran. Nag-antos mi sa kalisod. Tungod sa mga programa sa gobyerno, nalamdagan ang amo huna-huna. Nalamdagan ang among mga kasing-kasing nga kami mo-surrender para lang mag-usab sa amo kaugalingon nga dili nami magpadala sa ilang propaganda,” Riza said.

(If not for the government, we would still be living in the hinterlands. After knowing about the government’s programs, our hearts and minds have been enlightened and we chose to surrender so that we can change our lives. We will never fall again for their propaganda.)

DILG Negros Oriental Provincial Director Farah Gentuya (left) hands over a check worth P65,000 as livelihood assistance to former rebel ‘Alias Joel’ during a turnover ceremony held on March 21, 2024 at the PNP headquarters in Sibulan town. (RAL/PIA7 Negros Oriental)
Integration program

The assistance was distributed under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), the government’s program for rebel returnees to help reintegrate them into the community and provide them and their families with a complete package of assistance.

The rebel returnees each received P50,000 worth of livelihood assistance and P15,000 as immediate cash assistance from DILG.

The provincial government here also gave P5,000 additional cash assistance, five heads of native chicken, a bag of vegetable seeds, and 50 kilos of rice for each former rebel.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development distributed relief packs consisting of canned goods and six kilos of rice, while the Department of Agriculture also turned over packs of vegetable seeds.

Joel (not his real name) thanked the government for the livelihood assistance he received under ECLIP.

“Maayo ang tabang sa gobyerno hilabi na sa sitwasyon sa mga former rebels, wala gud sila nagpabaya sa amoa. Naningkamot sila paano kami matabangan,” the 32-year-old said.

(The government is really looking after the welfare of the former rebels. They have not abandoned us. They’re working hard to help us.)

Riza said she is thankful that she made the right decision to leave behind the long years of hiding.

“Dire sa pag-surrender namo, dire namo nakita ang tanan mga benepisyo, tanan mga programa, tanan amo nadawat ug kana dako kaayo nako na pasalamatan nako,” Riza said in her testimony after receiving the livelihood assistance.

(After we surrendered, we benefited from the government programs. We’ve seen the benefits which the government extends to us. I am very thankful for that.)

Riza is intent on venturing into agriculture using the assistance given to her by the government.

She plans to raise native chickens and cultivate the vegetable seeds she received.

Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel "Chaco" Sagarbarria assures former rebels that the provincial government is looking for ways to enhance its program to help them rebuild their lives during the turnover ceremony of ECLIP assistance held on March 21, 2024 at the PNP headquarters in Sibulan, Negros Oriental. (RAL/PIA7-Negros Oriental)
More aid to ex-rebels

Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel “Chaco” Sagarbarria assured the rebel returnees that the provincial government is preparing to further help them by providing them with housing assistance.

“Pagbalik ninyo naa moy andam na balay plus titulo kung ganahan mo mokuha didto sa Basay,” said Sagarbarria.

(When you come back, there are housing units with titles that are waiting for you in Basay.)

Basay is a 4th class municipality around 75 kilometers away from the capital, Dumaguete City.

Sagarbarria said the provincial government has allotted P60 million for the housing program.

“Nangita pa mi og pamaagi para maka-increase pa gud mi sa amo ihatag ninyo,” he said.

(We are also looking for other ways to increase the benefits you receive.)

DILG Provincial Director Farah Gentuya also assured the former rebels that the government will always support them.

“Ang gobyerno dili gyud magpabaya. It does not stop at us giving you the packages. Very committed ang atong gobyerno to help us out, hatagan ta og maayo nga future,” said Gentuya.

(The government will not abandon you. It does not stop with the packages. The government is committed to help and lead you to a better future.)

According to the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, the rebel returnees were surrenderees from Guihulngan City. (RAL//PIA7 Negros Oriental)

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