When the government has a change of heart, so does the rebel

Davao del Norte, (PIA) - With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many people have associated the year with losses.

However, in the many wars that the Philippines is currently facing, there is one that the country is evidently winning—the war against insurgency.

In the last decades, the Philippines has dealt with what seems to be an unsolvable insurgency. With the operation of the Communist Party of the Philippines linked with the New People’s Army, citizens in the far-flung areas have had to live their daily lives in the sound of gunshots, sights of bloodshed, and in state of fear. 

This writer had the chance to visit to Sitio Kaylawan in Barangay Sto. Nino last October 2, 2020 with team members of Provincial Information Communication and Knowledge Management Office (PICKMO) Documentary Film. 

As we were sent to document a story related to  ending local communist armed conflict (ELCAC), we spent time having conversation with the two high-ranking married former rebels living there,  and we realized how far the government has come in finally finding the key to this particular war.

This writer in Sitio Kaylawan in Talaingod

The government has understood that this war cannot be won through force and overpowering the rebels, but rather by winning their hearts.

This time, for the government, it was about eliminating the rebels’ struggle for survival, treating them well, and showing them that the military has come not to hurt but to help.

“Lahi na kaayo sauna ug karon. Kita na namo na pinangga man diay mi sa gobyerno. Buotan kaayo ang mga sundalo dinhi (It’s very different now. We see now that the government is taking care of us. The military soldiers are very nice here),” Former high-ranking NPA rebel, Aye Apuga, said.

“Gihatagan mi ug panginabuhian, naa mi sariling gulayan, naa na sab mi kuryente ug ginabuhat na sad nila ang dalan para panaog sa lungsod arun mabaligya namo among mga tanom (They gave us livelihood, we have our own vegetable farm, we have electricity, and they’re building the roads going down so we can sell our harvests),” she added.

Having experienced this sincerity, the rebels have not only come to the folds of the government but are also now courageously extending their arms for the other rebels to join them back to mainstream society. 

The national and local governments have made these successes through intensively pursuing the whole of nation approach to end local communist armed conflict embodied in Executive Order No. 70 issued by President Roa Rodrigo.

Some line government agencies have found their way hauling various government services with  the provincial and municipal governments together with the 56th Infantry Battalion. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)  for one has introduced Solar panel project, organic poultry raising and  organic vegetable farming among other projects.

“Naog na mo. Saakong mga paryente nga nabilin, kabalo ko nasuko mo sa ako ug andam kong mudawat sa inyong paghukom (Come down. To all my relatives left behind, I know you are angry at me and I am ready to accept your judgment),” Victor Apuga, another former high-ranking rebel, pleaded after citing how he and his family have benefited from  various government services delivered right at their community which was once secluded and unreachable.

Poultry raising project of TESDA in Sitio Kaylawan

“Apan gusto nako mahibalo mo nga mao kini ang kamatuoran ug mao kini ang tinood nga gobyerno (I want to let you know that this is the truth and this is the true government),” he said.

Of course, leaving the rebellion can make one a target of the NPAs, so when asked about the danger of exposing himself to the camera, Victor Apuga bravely said, “Andam gani ko ihatag akong kinabuhi sa kalihukang way tumong, kini pa kaha na adunay kasiguraduan ug nahibalo na ko sa kamatuoran ug sa akong mga karapatan (I was ready to give my life to the senseless rebellion, how much more for this where there’s certainty and now I know the truth and about my rights).”

When Victor uttered those powerful words, it proved that the government’s change of approach—one that is more coming from a place of love and sincerity--worked.

The change of heart of these two married former rebels was the most evident sign that the government is winning and the insurgency is weakening.   (Jan Vincent Leuterio, PIA-XI)








Source: Philippines Information Agency (pia.gov.ph)

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