Manila: The Philippine government has handed over houses to hundreds of former communist rebels and their families, in a community they can call their own, in Davao Oriental, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.
The government’s Task Force “Balik Loob” (Rebel Returnee) provided the houses to the initial batch of former insurgents who gave up arms under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Localised Integration Programme (E-Clip), the Department of National Defence (DND) said.
Defence Undersecretary Rey Mapagu, head of Task Force Balik Loob, said the homes would serve as “halfway houses” for the former rebels in their transition towards life in mainstream society.
Since 2013, the government had been providing integration programmes for communist rebels in order to give them the means to sustain their families — and the opportunity to become productive members of the society under the Comprehensive Livelihood Improvement Programme (CLIP).
To participate, the rebels only need to turn in their weapons.
However in April 10, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte provided an upgrade to this programme by providing “halfway houses” and other benefits to the rebels.
“A halfway house is a facility where various programmes ranging from psycho-social healing, education and skills training, and even health check-ups can be conducted. Since former rebels can be consolidated at halfway houses or Happy Homes, it also acts a convergence hub of different government agencies for the provision of their assistance to them,” he said.
The rebels and their families are being trained in carpentry, welding and massage therapy, among other vocations.
On July 11, the government inaugurated a “Happy Home” in Davao Oriental.
It was fully operationalised during the time of Lt. General Benjamin Madrigal when he was the Brigade Commander of 701st Brigade.
“As of July 11, 2018, a total of 45 out of 241 former rebels have already received a National Certification II from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) after finishing the Skill Development Training [carpentry, welding and massage therapy] intended for them. All 241 were likewise enrolled in the Department of Labour and Employment’s (DOLE) Livelihood Programme. Other interventions may include PhilHealth enrolment, housing, legal assistance and other social intervention,” Mapagu said.
Having a TESDA certification also means that there is a chance for the former rebels to be employed abroad.
Communist rebels under the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) remain one of the biggest threats to national security, officials say.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
According to Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, around 7,531 rebels and their sympathisers have been neutralised from January 1 to June 28 this year — 71 killed, 114 captured and 7,346 who voluntarily surrendered.
The CPP-NPA had been fighting successive Philippine administrations since 1969 when it was established by Jose Maria Sison who had been living in self-imposed exile for more than three decades.