President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to provide free housing, livelihood, free education and allowance to the children of the New People’s Army who will surrender and put down their firearms.
Duterte made the assurance in front of the 238 rebel returnees in Malacañang last Wednesday where he slammed Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison for brainwashing and using poor people to fight for the NPA cause.
Duterte added that when he was still young, he and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III used to listen to Sison.
He however said that since several former communist countries like China and the Soviet Union had turned its back against communism and embraced capitalism and became progressive, the President said he had an awakening.
The President also did not mince words when he said that most of the NPA members do not even know what they are fighting for and are just brainwashed by the passé Marxist ideology.
The Chief Executive, meanwhile, welcomed the rebel returnees and told them that the government is doing its best to address the root causes of the armed struggle such as lack of education, lack of job opportunities, and landlessness of farmers, among others.
As regards his resolve to provide free housing to the former rebels, the Chief Executive said there are 1,000 housing units in Talomo and Bangkal in Mindanao.
“There are around 1,000 units, some are in Talomo and some are in Bangkal. It’s almost done. It’s supposed to be given to the military and police, but I’ll give them to you instead,” Duterte said.
“Get yourselves enlisted now because I’ll give the 1,000 units to you. You will have a house that comes complete with everything. There is a school as well. College education is free. So I will just give you your allowance,” Duterte added.
Duterte clarified though that he would look for an alternative housing for the military.
As to the education of the former rebels’ children, Duterte reiterated that public universities and colleges now offer free education. Hence, they can enroll anytime.
The President also said the rebel returnees could avail of training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Duterte, meanwhile, advised the rebel returnees not to go back to the mountains anytime soon since they are in the hotlist of the NPA for turning their backs against the movement.
“To those who surrendered their guns, please be cautious. You know how it’s going to be. So it’s best if you stay here. You know that you will really be killed,” Duterte said.
“So I suggest that you stay with the Armed Forces and be a Cafgu. You should be given that first so that you can go back to your hometown. You can’t go back to the mountains anymore unless you kill them all,” the President added.
The former rebels, mostly from poor families and who barely finished schooling, came from the provinces of Compostela, Agusan del Sur, and Davao del Norte.
Of the 238 returnees, 26 became active political members, 60 were members of different armed NPA groups, and 152 were ‘militia ng bayan’ members.