Monday, October 27, 2008

Former rebels rebuild their lives and dreams

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Above the din of the training room, a baby's cry was heard followed by the soft voice of a young mother hushing and rocking the fragile bundle in her arms.

The nursing mother was 23-year-old "Adela," one of the former New People's Army (NPA) rebels who have returned to the folds of the law.

She sneaked out from the harsh life in the boondocks to reunite with her family and her community. After seven years in the communist movement, she could not find any change for the better in her life.

In fact, she had suffered too much more than she had been promised.

Adela's life was miserable as an NPA rebel.

Then one day, she decided that enough is enough as a guerrilla fighter, as she could not anymore tolerate her miserable life.

She was itching to live a normal life away from the dangers of being an Amazon (woman fighter).

Intensely looking at her new-born child in her arms, she was full of compassion, determined to give her daughter a normal life when she grows up. The new baby in her arms has further inspired her to turn a new leaf.

Like Adela, 33-year-old "Rico" got tired of the battles he had waged for seven years as a high-ranking officer in the Communist movement.

He could no longer bear to see innocent civilians being killed in encounters and meet his wife and kids only once or twice in a year.

Being with his family also matters to 36-year-old "Jojo," who, after five years of fighting the military, decided to come down because he has been worried about his two children.

Separated from his wife, he has been left to fend for his children who are struggling to continue their studies. Jojo felt it is time that he serves them as their father.

Adela, Rico and Jojo are among the hopeful returnees who are now rebuilding their shattered lives and dreams through the government's Social Integration Program (SIP).

Assisted by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the three former NPA rebel leaders and 46 others were the first batch to undergo a three-day livelihood skills training facilitated by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 11 at the Southern Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center in Tugbok, Davao City.

Their batch has also been granted P 2.45 million worth of livelihood support under the SIP on top of the P20,000 immediate cash grant previously handed to every one of them.

Each family has received assistance amounting to P50,000 in kind which include livestock, farm implements, seedlings or sari-sari store, depending of what they chose.

The grant is modest but valuable enough to enable the former guerrillas to start anew a life as law- abiding citizens. (PNA)

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