"In actuality, we share the same goals–to achieve a better life beyond poverty."
Last week, I met with Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Presidential Adviser for Southern Luzon Secretary Jose Maria Nicomedes Hernandez during the Third Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security Meeting.
During the meeting, 68 New People’s Army rebel surrenderees were presented. Their guns, ammunitions, and other weapons were also turned over to the government.
Following this, I, along with other provincial and local officials of Quezon, renewed our commitment in maintaining inclusive and sustainable peace and security in Quezon by addressing the causes of insurgency, internal disturbances, and armed conflict threat.
The RTF-ELCAC has a Serbisyo Caravan program, in coordination with the DILG. The Serbisyo Caravan program intends to benefit local communities. Medical and dental missions were held in Infanta and Mauban last month as part of the program. The DILG also contributed cash and livelihood assistance to rebel surrenderees amounting to P25,000 up to P65,000. Last week, there were 23 former rebels who were awarded such assistance.
I have always believed in inclusive and sustainable peace. Inclusion must consider that insurgency stems from poor and lamentable living conditions and the consequent call for reform, among others. While we welcome the returnees to mainstream society, we should be introspective and examine: what it was in us, in our society, in the dynamics between our government and our people, that pushed them to where they were. I have always believed in dialogue, that the other story, however it is told, is worth listening to, however different it is from my own belief.
In actuality, we share the same goals—to achieve a better life beyond poverty. We all work for economic success and prosperity but differ in the methods and principles we believe in. Perhaps, through this common goal, we can all agree that growth and development cannot be achieved through violence, guns, drugs, and other illegal means. Violence has no place in pursuing and proving the merits of one’s ideologies no matter how different these are from another's.
The government, through the DILG, adopts a reformative program for the surrenderees, aiding them to return to their communities and live normally as peace-loving and law-abiding citizens. Following this reformative stance, I call for the expansion of the assistance available to returnees and their families. In this way, not only are we enabling returnees and surrenderees to have fair means of livelihood, but we are also promoting reintegration to society. They have expressed their desire to join society and we should be equal to the task of giving them a chance to change and be part of the growth we are all striving for. The path to the mountains is rough, dangerous, and risky. There is a better way though—the road to peace.