CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur – True to its promise of assisting the former members and supporters of the communist terrorist group (CTG) to restart normal lives after returning to the folds of the law, the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (9ID) organized a 2-day Former Rebels Summit, with no less than Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commanding general of the Philippine Army as keynote speaker.
The summit, held from January 29-30, enabled 31 surrenderees to undergo briefings and trainings conducted by the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Housing Authority and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
In his keynote, Lt. Gen. Sobejana expressed his joy to see the former rebels face to face acknowledging the vision the government has for them.
Sobejana said “Yong E-CLIP program is just an added thing na nakukuha ninyo for returning to the folds of the law. Ang importante dito, in addition to returning to the fold of law, ay makamit natin ang kapayapaan, katahimikan, ‘yong matutulog ka sa gabi na hindi ka mangangamba namagkaroon ng putukan. Napakasarap namnamin ‘yong undisturbed ‘yong ating pagtulog at pag hanapbuhay.”
Some of the FRs also shared their willingness to rally behind the government’s campaign to end communist insurgency.
Leo (not his real name) draws contrasting circumstances: “Dati, ako’y nasa kabundukan. Ngayon ay nasa kahawanan na, malaki po ang pagkakaiba ng buhay na nandito tayo ngayon sa tamang pamahalaan at nagpapasalamat din po ako sa lahat ng nagbigay ng E-CLIP benefit na nakatulong po sa aming mga anak at sa pamilya.”
Another FR also encouraged the Bicolanos and his former comrades not to turn a blind eye on the CTG’s deceptions and terrorism.
Rodel (not his real name) appealed to those who are still in the hills straggling in a lost cause, “Kami po ay patuloy na nananawagan sa mga natitira sa kabundukan na ang pagkakataong ito ay bigyan nating pagpapahalaga para matapos na ang pagbubulagbulagan at pagbibingihan sa pagsunod sa isang maling ideolohiya.”
In his response, Major General Henry Robinson Jr., commander of the 9th Infantry Division said “Si Lt. Gen. Sobejana na mismo ang nagsabi na hindi gyera ang gusto ng mga sundalo. That is why, we reach out to former rebels because we don’t anybody left behind. As long as may natitira pang communist terrorists, hindi matatapos ang armadong tunggalian na ito.”
The affair culminated with the distribution of some token gift packages to the attendees.
In a related development, Sobejana led the inauguration of 20 newly-rehabilitated classrooms of Sto. Domingo Central School in Albay province under the collaboration of Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) and GMA Kapuso Foundation Inc. (GMAKFI) in rebuilding classrooms which were damaged by three strong typhoons last year.
In his message, Lt. Gen. Sobejana honored the educational programs of GMAKFI which he considers as a great complimentary effort to the peace and security campaigns of the government.
He also struck the symbiosis between teachers and soldiers, “Ika nga, mayroon kayong mga sundalo that kills the terrorists, we have the teachers or the academe that kill terrorism. So, if our teachers and our academe are effective doing their calling, there will be no terrorists. So, if there are no terrorists, then your soldiers will be effectively supporting your efforts of educating the youth which I consider the most vulnerable sector in our society.”
As constant partner, Ms. Rikki Escudero-Catibog of GMAKFI thanked the Army in extending a most supportive hand to the beneficiaries of their various projects.
“I really noticed how the Bicolanos value education, from primary to secondary to college. It really pleases us that we have this very nice school to turn-over to you because we know how hard the students and the teachers work on education,” Catibog added.
Lt. Gen. Sobejana is the incoming 55th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines this month, replacing General Gilbert Gapay, who will mandatorily retire from the service on February 4.
Sobejana is one of only 42 recipients of the Medal of Valor since 1935. He is the pride of Philippine Military Academy “Hinirang” Class of 1987 and holds the distinction of being the first AFP Chief of Staff in 72 years who has been awarded this medal of distinction.