Seventeen former New People’s Army members completed the Army’s reintegration program in Camp Osito Bahian, Malaybalay City on Saturday.
Capt. Ryan Layug, the course director of Primerong Kurso sa Pagbag-ong Kinabuhi Level 3 (PKPK-3) and former spokesman of 403rd Infantry Brigade in Bukidnon, said six of the former rebels are from Misamis Oriental, while the remaining 11 are from Bukidnon.
Layug said alias Jamby, Guerrilla Front 6 secretary from South Bukidnon, was part of the group of political instructors, squad leaders, platoon medic, and commanding officers of the Front Operational Command.
The PKPK-3 is the first part of mainstreaming process for former rebels. They will undergo further capacity-building training in halfway houses managed by local government units, as part of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip).
“We believe on the kindness of their hearts before they were radicalized by the Communist Party of the Philippines through the New People’s Army,” Layug said. “Their innocence were abused, they were made to believe that bearing arms and fighting the government is the way to achieve their means.”
The PKPK-3 started on Feb. 5 and ended last Saturday. During the 17-day course, participants and couples also experienced driving a farm tractor as part of the high-value crop production course.
One of the graduates of the course, alias Reslyn, said that, “I have mixed emotions at the moment—happiness and loneliness. Happiness, as I finally met real soldiers that risk their lives for our people and that I have finally felt real freedom. Loneliness, as my daily routine felt strange, but I wanted this to continue in my life.”
Col. Ferdinand Barandon, the newly installed commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade covering Misamis Oriental, Camiguin, Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon, commended the graduates.
“I was then a young company commander that covered San Fernando, Bukidnon. Seeing you today after almost three decades and hearing your messages, longing to live a peaceful life with your family melts my heart. It is filled with gratitude that you have finally returned home,” he said during the closing ceremony of the PKPK 3.