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700 former rebels meet with Duterte in Davao

Some 700 former communist rebels faced President Rodrigo Duterte in a dialogue organized by the Philippine military on Thursday in Davao City, officials said.

Army Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said those who attended the meeting were former fighters of the New People's Army (NPA) who surrendered this year in the provinces of Agusan, Bukidnon, Surigao, Davao, Cotabato and Sarangani.

He said many of those who yielded to the government have received financial assistance and livelihood aid as part of the so-called Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP.

Others, Balagtey added, are still being processed so they can also receive assistance from the government.

"The former rebels who were from the provinces and had surrendered their firearms to the authorities and after undergoing verification processes are now the automatic recipients of the CLIP of the government which offers various [forms of]financial and livelihood assistance," he said.

Balagtey added that among the specific benefits that each former communist rebel can get from CLIP are P15,000 financial support, another P50,000 for livelihood and a remuneration for the surrendered firearm with amounts ranging from P12,000 to P210,000 depending on the type of firearms they turned over to the government.

He said the President has ordered government agencies to send their representatives to the meeting to help and hasten the processing of the rebel returnees so that they could benefit from the CLIP.

"Various officials from different government agencies had also attended the event not only to witness but also to hold dialogues with the former communist rebels and offer talks on government's social services, health, infrastructure, livelihood, education, social justice and governance programs to help former communist rebels reintegrate into society smoothly," according to Balagtey.

A number of former rebels has also joined the military's Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) to help troops guard their communities from NPA attacks.

"There are former rebels who are now Cafgu members and they are our partners in securing our people and the community," Balagtey said.

He appealed to the rebels to take advantage of the government's amnesty program and return to the fold of the law and live a peaceful life with their families.

The NPA has been fighting for almost five decades in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a communist state in the country.

Duterte has declared a limited Christmas truce to allow government soldiers to enjoy the holiday break with their families, but the unilateral cease-fire would not stop law enforcement operations against the rebel group.

[Source: By Al Jacinto, The Manila Times, Zamboanga City, 21Dec17]

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Peace Negotiations in the Philippines
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