COTABATO CITY: A former member of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) has described some lawmakers’ move to defund or realign the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) funds as an act of treason.
“From our point of view as former rebels and to those victims of communist deception and exploitation, defunding NTF-ELCAC is an act of treason to the people,” said Joy James Saguino alias ‘Ka Amihan’, who served as secretary of Guerilla Front 20 under Sub-regional Committee 1 of the New People’s Army’s Southern Mindanao Region.
“Ka Amihan”, in a recent press conference here, said he is puzzled by the proposal to realign NTF ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program (BDP) budget of PHP16.5 billion for the development of 822 barangays cleared of insurgency.
“Bakit natin i-de-deprive ng isang kaunlarang programa na deserve nila (Why would we defund it? Why would we deprive a development program they [NPA surrenderers] deserve?) For how many years?,” he added.
She described the communist insurgency as worse than the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Ka Amihan”, who is among the resource persons in the Nov. 24, 2020, Senate Committee on National Defense & Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation hearing on red-tagging, claimed he was recruited at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo as a member of League of Filipino Students (LFS).
Joining “Ka Amihan in the press conference the Army’s 1002nd Brigade command post in Magpet, North Cotabato were three other former rebels, along with North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco, Brigadier General Potenciano Camba, and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency 12 Director Eduardo Marquez.
Listen to former NPA rebels
Meanwhile, North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco said senators should listen to the former rebels who experienced poverty and the hardships of being in the communist movement.
“I think they do not understand the purpose of Executive Order 70, and maybe they should listen to Amihan, and other former rebels before they talk because they have a different experience there in the Senate compared to the former rebels,” Catamco said.
She believes that President Rodrigo Duterte will not go against his mandate in realigning the government’s anti-insurgency body to other projects.
BDP is a hallmark program of NTF ELCAC with the end goal of bringing development to former conflict-prone communities.
Camba said each target BDP beneficiary has high expectations of the program with the PHP20-million that is more than a regular budget of a barangay.
“It will be of great service to the people that we can provide farm to market roads, school buildings, and water and sanitation projects with the particular allocation,” he said.
Camba added that the lack of projects and programs to affected barangay before paved the way for the insurgents to thrive over the years and that the BDP is the “antidote”.
Appropriations of the PHP20 million for each barangay include PHP12 million for 1-kilometer farm-to-market road; PHP3 million for classrooms; PHP1.5 million water and sanitation systems; PHP1.5 million for health stations; and PHP1.5 million for livelihood projects.
“We want to bring peace to communities who were victims of exploitation and radicalization infiltration and this is more than a Covid-19 pandemic because this communist insurgency is more than a virus killing millions,” he said.
For Major General Ernesto Torres Jr., Army’s 10th Infantry Division commander, the success of Executive Order 70 signed by President Duterte in 2018, and strong convergence of government agencies, the problem of insurgency is just an inch away to total eradication with the help of the people as part of the whole of the nation approach.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.