Civilian and military authorities in Negros Oriental on Friday assured rebel returnees of the sincerity of government in helping them start fresh in their lives outside of the underground movement after leaving the New People’s Army – the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The assurance comes as Gov. Roel Degamo and Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Negros Oriental, led other civil government agencies and military officials on Friday in the turning over of initial cash assistance to at least four members of the rebel New People’s Army from Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.

The recipients, former regular members of the NPA’s Larangan Guerilla 1 operating in northern Negros Oriental until their surrender to military authorities last year, were Danny Boy Sombilon Encabo of Barangay Tacpao; Jemmar Cañete Visor of Sitio Titip Dako, Barangay Sandayao; Oliver Callora Villahermosa of Batayan, Barangay Tacpao; and Morita Bayato Barino, of Binobohona, all in Guihulngan City.

They are the first batch of rebel returnees in Negros Oriental to receive financial assistance from the provincial government for the new year , said Provincial Social Welfare Officer Alice Legarde.

Last year, around 27 other rebel returnees also received similar assistance from the government, records showed.

It has been always a dream of the provincial government of Negros Oriental to attain true and lasting peace and genuine development by freeing itself from the clutches of the long-running insurgency problem, said Governor Degamo. He assured that his administration would continue to deliver the basic services and carry on with infrastructure and development projects in areas vulnerable to the insurgency problem.

According to Legarde, the four are also qualified to each receive a total of P65,000 from the national government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process once all requirements and other documents are submitted and approved.

The P65,000 comprises P50,000 for livelihood assistance under which a rebel returnee-recipient shall have to undergo training and P15,000 emergency assistance, said Legarde.

Legarde expressed hope that the financial assistance from the national government will be released by the 2nd quarter of this year at the latest.

One of the rebel returnees, Morita Bayato Barino, shed tears and hugged Gov. Degamo after receiving her check. Barino, 35, married, admitted that she was an “amazon’ or lady fighter of the NPA for three years until she decided to leave.

The three other former NPA members also thanked the governor and the Philippine Army for their kindness in facilitating their surrender, taking good care of them during the transition period and assisting in the processing of financial aid promised them.

Brig. Gen. Patrimonio, in a brief message during the turn-over ceremony, sounded the call to other members of the NPA to go back to the folds of the law.

He reiterated the governor’s statement earlier that the war against insurgency cannot be won solely by combat operations but through other means.

“Let us abandon the armed struggle”, he said, adding that the Philippine Army is continuously doing the rounds especially in the insurgency-affected areas to check on problems and how these can be solved by line agencies.

Patrimonio disclosed that Bayanihan Teams of the Philippine Army serve as conduits as well in identifying problems and recommending solutions to the other government agencies involved in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign or Internal Peace and Security Plan. (PNA)