Army strengthens federated group for ex-rebels, supporters

By Che Palicte / Philippine News Agency

Maj. Gen. Ernesto Torres Jr., commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (PNA file photo)

DAVAO CITY – The Army’s 10th Infantry Division (10ID) is intensifying the creation of a federated people’s organization (PO) among former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), and their underground mass organization (UGMO) supporters, to help them rebuild their lives as they reintegrate to their communities.


Maj. Gen. Ernesto Torres Jr., the Army’s 10ID commander, said they have so far formed some 549 POs in their area of responsibility which is composed of former rebels, former UGMO members, and communist terrorist group (CTG)-affiliated mass organization members.


“The former rebels (FRs) helped us along with their organized mass members in leading to the path of peace and development here in our area,” Torres said in an interview over SMNI News Laban Kasama ang Bayan on Tuesday.


“Hopefully, Ka Pedro and Ka Benoy who became national figures can help at the national level for others' conversion and change of mindset. They can also influence other NPA members in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao,” he added.


Torres underscored that the establishment of POs can eventually help the former UGMO members who were mostly farmers and fisherfolk get back on their feet and live normally in their communities with the government’s support.


He pointed out that the organization of POs would not also be possible without the assistance of various government agencies as well as the private sector that jointly worked for the former rebels' reformation.


“Government agencies and private sector joined forces to provide sustainability on these POs as they slowly return to the folds of the law. We aimed at providing them livelihood, security, and upon establishment, that is when the whole of nation approach comes in,” Torres said.


In December 2018, President Rodrigo issued Executive Order 70 institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating a national task force to end local communist armed conflict, and directing the adoption of a national peace framework.


Section 2 of EO 70 also directed the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to ensure the efficient and effective implementation of the whole-nation approach.


The NTF-ELCAC is so far the most potent strategy being utilized by the Duterte administration in defeating the communist insurgency in the countryside.


Federated people’s organization


As an example of a successful federated PO, he cited the Municipality of Maragusan in Davao de Oro with 21 recognized POs that were duly supported by their local government.


“The mayor took cognizance of the importance of strengthening the federated POs. They provided help desk in their municipal hall solely for the POs and provided them with their own office for them to have their identity in the community,” Torres said.


He said that by establishing disposition, the POs will be empowered and can ask for help through the convergence effort of various government agencies and private sectors.


“They are also made part of their peace and order council,” he added.


Torres also bared that the federated PO has also been brought into the provincial level and presented to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.


“If it will be established, they will have a program at the municipal and provincial level and we will be able to fund them for their program or projects for them to sustain their POs,” Torres said.


He added: “If this template will be followed not only in the municipal or provincial but at the national level, all of the concerns of the FRs and supporters which numbered to some 30,000 in our area of responsibility (AOR) will be addressed.”


Meanwhile, the Army official also cited the successful Community Support Program (CSP) immersion in various NPA-influenced areas which led to the surrender of numerous rebels.


The CSP is part of the AFP’s Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) “Kapayapaan” which aims to attain sustainable peace with the active support of the community and partner stakeholders in bringing the government closer to the people and eliminating the influence of the NPA in the community.


He reported that out of the 1,901 barangays in the AOR of 10ID, only 12 remained to be NPA-influenced barangays.


“Slowly but surely we are getting them back. We will continue our massive CSP deployment in these areas,” Torres added.


The CPP-NPA-NDF, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, 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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