They used to fight against government forces, now they are part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
This was after the 266 former combatants of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade in Negros and Panay completed a 45-day Community Defense Unit (CDU) training on Nov. 5 at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.
Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, welcomed the CDU graduates to the Armed Forces, and recognized the historic partnership forged between the national government and the KAPATIRAN, formerly known as the RPA-ABB.
“Now you are formally part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. As our brothers in service, your fight shall be our fight. Your enemies are now our enemies. On this day, we hereby formalize our unity for peace and development of our Motherland,” Dolina said.
Being a member of the CDU shall capacitate you and reward you with peace of mind, because now you are one with the government in securing your communities against troublemakers, he added.
Capt. Cenon Pancito, Public Affairs Office chief of the 3rd Infantry Division, yesterday said the former RPA-ABB combatants, are now part of the AFP territorial forces, who will protect their respective Peace and Development Communities in Negros and Panay islands.
The 266 CDU members form part of the 727 decommissioned RPA-ABB members two months ago, before they underwent military training to defend their communities, where their families are staying, from attacks by the New People’s Army, Pancito said.
He added that the former RPA-ABB fighters have been equipped with government- issued high-powered firearms, following the surrender of their guns and explosives, as part of the decommissioning process.
Some of the former rebels were also employed as forest rangers by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, tasked to protect the remaining forest cover of Negros Island.
Of the eight PDC sites, six are in Negros Island and one each in Iloilo and Aklan. Most of the RPA-ABB members are located in 91 villages in Western Visayas.
Pancito said the 266 CDU members, who will each receive subsistence allowance from the AFP, will be placed under the supervision of a military unit, where the concerned PDC site is located.
The RPA-ABB and its political wing, Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Mangagawa-Pilipinas (RPM-P), signed a peace agreement with the government in 2000.
Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Carlito Galvez , who was the guest of honor and speaker during the graduation rites of former RPA-ABB combatants, called on other communist insurgents to follow the example of the Kapatiran members.
“To our brothers who are still up in the mountains, the KAPATIRAN, who are your former comrades, are examples of very successful local peace engagements,” Galvez said, stressing that local peace engagements under the Duterte administration’s Whole-Of-Nation Approach are gaining traction, as revolutionary organizations are giving up armed struggle and returning to the folds of the law.
Galvez challenged the CDU graduates to embody the lessons they have learned during their training.
“Utilize what you have learned in those 45 days, especially discipline. Discipline is one of the most vital aspects of being a soldier. Without it, we would not succeed in our aspirations,” Galvez added.
Recalling the instructions of President Duterte, Galvez said that no one should be left behind in the peace process.
“We are assuring you that the Duterte administration will not leave you behind,” he said.
Veronica “Ka Inca” Tabara, co-chair of the Joint Enforcement and Monitoring Committee for KAPATIRAN, lauded the graduates for the hard work and perseverance they demonstrated during the training.
“You are the inspiration of the KAPATIRAN leadership to keep fulfilling its duty to improve the lives of all its members, so that we can continuously help in uplifting the country and its people,” Tabara said in a statement issued by OPAPP.
Veronica is the widow of RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG leader Arturo Tabara who was killed by the communist group in 2004.
“We already mentioned that our journey towards the path of peace has not been easy, and such will not end with the creation of the community defense unit,” she added.
A PROMISE FULFILLED
With the graduation of the CDU trainees, the Philippine government and KAPATIRAN have accomplished one of the five components of the Clarificatory Implementing Document (CID), the annex to the peace agreement signed by the parties in 2000, OPAPP also said in a statement
Malacañang had earlier approved P560 million in funds for the implementation of the CID. Of the amount, P138 million was allocated to immediate cash grants, with P25,000 per profiled KAPATIRAN member, an additional P50,000 livelihood sustainable grants for each of them, as well as various housing and development projects.
Under the disposition of arms, forces, and security arrangements, KAPATIRAN members turned over 300 short and long firearms as well as explosives, which shall be put beyond use.
The four remaining components of the CID include: social and economic reintegration of KAPATIRAN members; full transformation of KAPATIRAN into a civilian organization engaging in socio-economic and political activities; community peace and dividends, and; pardon and release of remaining alleged political offenders.
Under the plan, the OPAPP will partner with concerned government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education and Skill Development Authority, and Commission on Higher Education to implement the initiatives.*
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