Inter-municipal TF ELCAC in NoCot moves to ‘deradicalize’ youth

By Noel Punzalan / Philippine News Agency

DERADICALIZED YOUTH. The agitated young people listen to a speaker during one of their sessions in the Aug. 9-16, 2021 deradicalization program in Tulunan, North Cotabato. The youth participants (inset) also underwent group workshops for psychosocial interventions and reorientation needed for their rejoining the mainstream society. (Photos courtesy of 39IB)

COTABATO CITY – Some 10 young people, indoctrinated with communist ideology, have completed a weeklong “deradicalization” program initiated by three municipal governments in North Cotabato with the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion (IB) as a partner.


A statement released by the 39IB Monday night said the deradicalization program ran from Aug. 9 to 16 at the Kyllex Resort in Tulunan town of North Cotabato.


“The municipal task forces on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) of the towns of Columbio and Lebak, both of Sultan Kudarat; and Tulunan, North Cotabato was carried out successfully through their municipal social welfare and development offices (MSWDOs),” said 2nd Lt. Sharmaine Dela Rosa, 33IB civil-military officer, in the statement.


She added that the youth participants are members of the Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) communities from Tulunan, North Cotabato, Columbio, and Lebak all of Sultan Kudarat, who were “rescued” by an Inter-Agency Group during an operation carried out in a “Lumad Bakwit School” at the University of San Carlos (USC) retreat house in Talamban, Cebu City on Feb 15, 2021.


The USC, through its president, Fr. Narciso Cellan Jr., has earlier denied claims though that so-called militant groups in the retreat house at the USC Talamban campus held the IP children captive.


Dela Rosa said before the conduct of the seven-day program, the young participants have undergone psycho-social examination that became the basis for psychosocial interventions, spiritual programs, and alternative learning systems essential to reorient and reorganized the mindset of the affected youth.


MSWDO personnel from Columbio and Lebak, Sultan Kudarat; and Tulunan, North Cotabato have first sought permission and consent from the participants' parents, as they supervised the round-the-clock supervision of the program.


"As duty bearers, this is a call for us to reach these communities that we are present, accessible, and prioritizing the protection and welfare of children under all circumstances,” Department of Social Welfare and Development –Region 12 Director Restituto Macuto said in a separate statement.


He added that the youth participants are closely monitored by their respective MSWDOs and will undergo further psychosocial examinations after a required healing period.


Tulunan Mayor Reuel Limbungan of Tulunan, North Cotabato expressed appreciation to the scientific and culture-sensitive approach to the debriefing of the program participants.


He described the program as a positive action for the “affected youth” for them to later become productive and spiritually matured role models of their communities.


The ELCAC is a comprehensive whole-of-nation approach implemented by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in fighting the insurgency being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).


On Dec. 4, 2018, the National Task Force – ELCAC was formed under Executive Order No. 70 issued by the President that institutionalized the government's "whole-of-nation" approach in tackling the communist insurgency in the country.


The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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