The provincial government of Negros Occidental and the Armed Forces of the Philippines yesterday extended financial assistance to the children of victims of what they call the “La Castellana massacre”, and a rebel amazon, who surrendered two high-powered firearms to the 11th Infantry Battalion.
“We are waging an all-out effort for peace,” Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said, adding that he expects more rebels to respond to his call to give up the armed struggle.
“I am calling on them to return to the folds of government because their life in the revolutionary movement is difficult, I feel sorry for them”, the governor said.
Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, assisted by Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio and Col. Jon Aying, commanders of the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades, gave P90,500 to the rebel amazon, in exchange for the M-16 and M-14 rifles she had surrendered, under the Guns for Peace program of the AFP.
Marañon assisted by Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, also gave over P9,000 in educational assistance to each, including tuition fees and allowances for one semester only, to Bhemverly Complesa, Genesis Tamayor and Cyrus Canja, whose parents died in an ambush staged by the New People’s Army in Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, early this year.
The number of rebel returnees who surrendered to the 303rd Infantry Brigade alone in Negros Occidental since 2011, also rose to 87, military records show.
“This only proves that our all-out effort for peace is being answered,” Maranon said, citing the surrender of 87 former rebels.
Baladad, who attended the closing program of the National Peace Consciousness Month celebration at the Negros Occidental Multi-Purpose Activity Center in Bacolod City, also confirmed that they received many surrender feelers from rebels, who want to join the mainstream society.
He lauded the peace effort of the provincial government under the leadership of Gov. Maranon, through the creation of the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit, that is now spearheading the peace and development campaign in 11 hinterland barangays of Escalante City, Toboso and Calatrava.
“It only shows that rebels who may surrender have still a bright future awaits for them as the provincial government of Negros Occidental vowed to support them in their livelihood and other basic needs,” Baladad added.
In his speech, Marañon assured the families of the 87 rebel returnees that they will be covered by the Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Care Program, to address their hospitalization needs, on top of livelihood and educational assistance for their children.
Peace advocate Delia Locsin administered the oath-taking to 87 rebel returnees to the Code of Conduct of Non-Violence and declaration of peace community.*GPB