When it rains, it pours for 26 rebel returnees in Negros Occidental.
This was after the former members of the New People’s Army who were given financial and livelihood assistance by the provincial government of Negros Occidental, yesterday again received P1.3 million in livelihood assistance from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process.
Each returnee received P50,000 in livelihood assistance, Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said.
Lactao, however, said that before they availed of the assistance, the returnees had to undergo social preparations from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, that included options on what livelihood projects they want to pursue.
The provincial government of Negros Occidental has so far distributed almost P700,000 in financial and livelihood assistance to 67 rebel returnees.
Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said he will include the families of returnees in the Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Care Program, and also provide scholarships to deserving children of rebel returnees, some of whom are now enjoying it.
Among the 26 recipients of the P50,000 livelihood assistance from OPPAP was Eduardo Baynosa Sr., his daughter, Mary Janer, and son Eduardo Jr. and wife, Jonahmae Mahilum, all of whom had served the NPA in northern Negros for several years.
Rebel returnees Eldro Montargo, Romeo Olite and Richard Baylosis, in behalf of other returnees, thanked Marañon and the military for helping them return to mainstream society.
Olite, who surrendered to the military in 2009, said his child is among those who availed of the scholarship program of Marañon.
Montargo said his mother availed of the government free medical services in Sagay City.
They also issued an appeal to their former comrades to “spare them” from harm, citing the summary execution of a rebel returnee in Calatrava last year. They also enjoined their former colleagues still in the mountains and fighting against the government to re-think their situation.
“I hope the messages of the rebel returnees will reach those who are still fighting against the government, that we should unite in fighting the poverty, and not against each other,” Marañon said.
Lactao said he was told by the DSWD that OPPAP is also set to release livelihood assistance to the remaining 67 former rebels, through the strong representation of Marañon with Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo.
“Hopefully, this will help you start a new and peaceful life with your families,” Lactao told the 26 rebel returnees at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City, where Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan and representatives of the Provincial Social Welfare and Planning Development and Offices, respectively, and OPPAP, were present.
“Forty years of armed struggle have not solved any of our problems but have rather caused more problems and misery,” he said.*GPB