By Liza Agoot
BAGUIO CITY – Five years ago, former New People’s Army rebel “Ka Iyong” was always fearful that each sunrise would be his last — until he grabbed the opportunity to surrender and provide a brighter future for his family.
Ka Iyong, 35, retained his underground nickname even now that he has become a full-fledged member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Being a soldier was his childhood dream, but he was instead enticed to join the New People’s Army (NPA) of the communist movement in 2013 when he was 24 and a university student in Metro Manila.
The former rebel said he is a living proof of the government’s sincerity in ending the rebellion by enticing NPA rebels to voluntarily surrender and avail of the benefits of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
“It is a dream come true, and I am lucky to be given a big opportunity to sleep soundly and be with my family and friends aside from the fact that I can now help provide for the needs of my family, and the maintenance medicines of my diabetic mother,” he said in an interview.
Ka Iyong now helps in the government’s anti-terrorism campaign through public speaking engagements, where he shares how he was recruited and the difficult life in the mountains. He also corrects the youth’s “twisted thoughts” and how they can avoid being recruited into the underground movement.
“Life is better now. The mountains that used to give me fear are the same mountains I regularly traverse the same area as part of the internal security operation of the AFP unit to assure the safety of the people in the community,” he shared.
Another inspiring story of an NPA surrenderer is that of “Ka Cedric” who spent half of his 30 years in the underground movement, throwing away his dream to become a priest. He has been under military custody for six months now and undergoing processing under the E-CLIP program.
“Through awareness, the people, especially the youth, will be able to discern right from wrong in joining the armed struggle,” he said during a peace rally in Baguio last year.
The E-CLIP program provides immediate assistance, livelihood assistance, housing, and education. If necessary and possible, relocation may also be arranged.
The case of Ka Iyong, who became a soldier after voluntary surrender, is under the livelihood program of the E-CLIP for qualified and deserving former rebels, according to Col. Camilo Saddam, deputy commander of the AFP Joint Task Force-Baguio.
Saddam said the E-CLIP is a joint initiative of government agencies that pool their resources to turn a former rebel’s life around. (PNA)