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Nat’l gov’t backs ARMM’s reintegration program for former ASG members

ROCAYA SUMNDAD OTICAL

Marawi City, Lanao del Sur
March 26, 2017

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government’s reintegration program for Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) returnees has received a positive message of support from National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Sec. Lorenzana said the ARMM’s reintegration program will be supported by the national government. The statement came after the program delivered positive results from its initial interventions.

The Defense secretary, along with Alexander Macario, assistant secretary for peace and order of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), attended the ARMM’s Regional Peace and Order Council meeting on Thursday, March 21, at the Western Mindanao Command Camp in Zamboanga City.

The reintegration program dubbed Program Against Violence and Extremism (PAVE), was initiated by ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman’s office. PAVE is designed to provide opportunities to members of the ASG who surrendered and returned to the fold of law for reintegration in society. The program is expected to result in more ASG members surrendering in the coming months.

A total of 173 former Abu Sayyaf members from the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have recently surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), or to their local government units (LGUs). John Louie Balagot, cabinet secretary of the ARMM Governor’s Office and current PAVE manager, said the ASG members must also give up their firearms upon surrendering.

Balagot added a series of interventions were piloted involving the 89 returnees from Basilan since July 2017. The interventions include psychosocial sessions, medical check-ups, introduction to farming systems, and expository tours outside the island provinces, which are designed to usher the complete reformation of the former combatants into decent and productive members of society.

The returnees will also be provided with farm implements as livelihood support and housing from the ARMM-Bangsamoro Regional Inclusive Development with Growth and Equity Program. “After hearing Sec. Lorenzana’s support, we will be able to expand and enhance our program to deliver more services to the returnees,” Balagot added.

Assistant Secretary Macario said the national government, through the DILG, is also making a reformation program dedicated to the ASG. “We commend the regional government for the initiatives it has taken to stabilize peace and order in ARMM,” Asec. Macario said.

In the coming months, the returnees from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi will undergo interventions similar to those in Basilan. In Sulu, there were 61 returnees, and 23 in Tawi-Tawi. PAVE has been running in cooperation with LGUs in Basilan, AFP Joint Task Force, Basilan provincial government, Basilan Young Leaders Program, Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc., and Eisenhower Fellows Association of the Philippines. – Bureau of Public Information/RSP.

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