(PAGASA 24-HOUR PUBLIC WEATHER FORECAST as of Monday, 27 May 2024) At 3:00 AM today, the center of the eye of Typhoon "AGHON" {EWINIAR} was estimated based on all available data at 95 km East of Baler, Aurora (15.6°N, 122.5°E) with maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h near the center and gustiness of up to 170 km/h. It is moving North Northeastward at 10 km/h. Southwesterly Windflow affecting the western section of Southern Luzon and Visayas. 𝗙𝗒π—₯π—˜π—–π—”π—¦π—§ π—ͺπ—˜π—”π—§π—›π—˜π—₯ π—–π—’π—‘π——π—œπ—§π—œπ—’π—‘: Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms due to Localized Thunderstorms. Possible flash floods or landslides during severe thunderstorms. 𝗙𝗒π—₯π—˜π—–π—”π—¦π—§ π—ͺπ—œπ—‘π—— 𝗔𝗑𝗗 π—–π—’π—”π—¦π—§π—”π—Ÿ π—ͺπ—”π—§π—˜π—₯ π—–π—’π—‘π——π—œπ—§π—œπ—’π—‘: Light to moderate winds coming from South to Southwest will prevail with slight to moderate seas (0.6 to 2.5 meters).

Friday, 12 April 2024

Former rebels in Caraga seek government support in reintegration process

By Jennifer Gaitano

BUTUAN CITY (PIA) – The former rebels, who are now called “friends rescued” (FRs) from the different cities and municipalities in the province of Agusan del Sur, are hopeful and supportive of the government’s effort to provide them with the needed guidance and assistance in their reintegration into mainstream society through the transformation program.

In the recently concluded two-day planning workshop spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) – Eastern Mindanao in partnership with the provincial government of Agusan del Sur, held at the Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative (ASELCO) gymnasium in the municipality of San Francisco, the FRs actively took part in expressing their issues and concerns and in the planning of the specific needs that they want the government agencies to provide for them.

Heads and representatives from various government line agencies, together with the officials from the province of Agusan del Sur and former rebels or friends rescued, took active part in the crafting of the transformation program plan during the two-day planning workshop spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) - Eastern Mindanao, held at the ASELCO gymnasium in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Photo by PIA-Agusan del Sur.

Alias “Jessa”, one of the former rebels, revealed that one of the many concerns that they want to be addressed is the cases filed against them. She said several of them werefacing 30 to 50 cases or more when they were still active in the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG). 

“Though the Philippine Army is taking care of us and our needs, we still fear that other law enforcement agencies will apprehend us once they see us back in our respective communities. We want to ask the provincial government and the different line agencies to help us resolve these cases and allow us to regain our lives and be able to live a normal life in mainstream society,” underscored Jessa.

“We further want to ask the help of the lawyers and prosecutors from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and the rest of the law enforcement agencies, as well as the members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), to conduct case court validation in order to check if there are other cases filed against us [FRs] in other areas, so we won’t have any problems by the time we could avail of the government’s amnesty program,” she added.

Apart from this, she said they also need intervention on livelihood, financial literacy training, and a home they can call their own.

AgSur officials’ commitments to provide for the welfare of the FRs 

Agusan del Sur Gov. Santiago Cane Jr. emphasized that the provincial government needs the help and contribution of the various sectors in addressing the insurgency problem not only in Agusan del Sur but also in other provinces of the region. 

Agusan del Sur Governor Santiago Cane, Jr. appealed to all sectors in the province to unite and help in attaining sustainable peace and inclusive development for all, and accept the former rebels as the government facilitate their reintegration in mainstream society. Photo by PIA-Agusan del Sur.

"We are thankful that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) is here with us to help the provincial government come up with a concrete transformation plan and program that will address our security, healing reconciliation, and socio-economic concerns, among others. Where OPAPRU goes, development comes in," remarked Cane.

"Your presence is considered a ray of light, giving us hope that our dreams for the Agsurnons will come true. We will give our best in the realization of this endeavor with OPAPRU and the rest of the concerned government agencies," added Cane.

Cane also urged the FRs to equip themselves with the skills trainings and technical and financial assistance to be provided by the government so they can become reliable and resilient in their undertakings in mainstream society.

The governor further assured the FRs that the provincial government will support and facilitate the conduct of case court validation along with the legal officers and other agencies involved in tracing the legal charges filed against the identified FRs in the province of Agusan del Sur to fast track the FRs’ availment of parole or amnesty programs. 

Establishment of a Peace Center in Agusan del Sur

Cane announced that the provincial government will soon establish a peace center as a one-stop shop for the FRs in the province.

"Different government agencies that have direct involvement in the processing of the FRs will be put in place at the Peace Center. We will make this easier for our FRs; hence, making our programs readily available for the FR beneficiaries," he said.

He highlighted that the OPAPRU will extend assistance amounting to P5 million to the provincial government for the establishment of the peace center. Necessary personnel will also be installed in the said facility.

OPAPRU Director Elisa Evangelista-LapiΓ±a shared that it has been the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to fast track the implementation of the amnesty program,  institutionalize the transformation program for former rebels in the province, craft the NTF-ELCAC transformation roadmap, sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between OPAPRU and PGAS for the funding of the Peace Center in Agusan del Sur, and provide funding for educational assistance intended for the indigenous peoples (IPs) worth P3 million.

"For the duty-bearers, we already have a well-functioning government and good leaders; what we have to do is align all our efforts toward attaining our goals," she said.

Agusan del Sur Rep. Alfel Bascug highlighted that the unified efforts of the government and partner stakeholders towards attaining sustainable peace and inclusive development reflect a “Bagong Pilipinas” for all Filipinos.

He further urged all sectors to help protect the rights and promote the welfare of the people so they may be protected from becoming victims of deception by communist terrorist groups.

Agusan del Sur’s First and Second District Congressional Representatives, Alfel Bascug and Adolph Edward “Eddiebong” Plaza, shared the same commitment to support the endeavors of the provincial government with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), along with other government agencies on the implementation of the transformation program for the former rebels or “friends rescued.” Photo by PIA-Agusan del Sur.

Second District Agusan del Sur Congressional Rep. Adolph Edward "Eddiebong" Plaza also reiterated the relevance of the implementation of the Upland Sustainable Agriforestry Development (USAD), which is the centerpiece poverty alleviation program of the provincial government. 

"The USAD of Agusan del Sur serves as instrumental in changing the lives of the Agsurnons and addresses the concerns that may cause armed conflict," said Plaza.

He also stressed that USAD represents a comprehensive and forward-thinking initiative designed to address the pressing issues faced by upland communities.

"The former rebels or 'friends rescued' are welcome to enroll in our Upland Sustainable Agriforestry Development, or USAD, as this will capacitate them and give them vast opportunities to improve their livelihood and sustain the gains along with the programs from the different government agencies provided for them," added Plaza.

Agusan del Sur’s First and Second District Congressional Representatives, Alfel Bascug and Adolph Edward “Eddiebong” Plaza, together with Agusan del Sur Governor Santiago Cane, Jr., officials from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), and representatives from various line agencies, expressed their commitment to the realization of the transformation plan intended for the former rebels from 2025-2027. Photo by PIA-Agusan del Sur.

Meanwhile, the attendees of the said planning workshop participated in the ceremonial signing of the pledge of commitment to support the government's effort in attaining sustainable peace and inclusive development by providing the needed programs for the Agsurnon former rebels or “friends rescued.”

The FRs also received cash worth P6,000, a sack of rice and grocery packs from the OPAPRU and officials of Agusan del Sur. (JPG, PIA-Agusan del Sur)