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People and Places

Former rebels find new opportunities amid the pandemic

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), as the lead agency in social protection, and as one of the members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), continues to assist former rebels who have returned to the fold of the law.

As stipulated in Executive Order No. 70 or the “Whole-of-Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace”, former rebels who are deemed as eligible and cleared by the Joint AFP-PNP Intelligence Committee (JAPIC) are qualified to receive the DSWD-Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) Livelihood Settlement Grant (LSG) under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

E-CLIP seeks to contribute toward achieving the goal of permanent and peaceful closure of all armed conflicts with non-state armed groups. The program is designed to encourage those within these armed groups to return to their communities and normal lives by accessing them to government programs and services, so they can rebuild their lives.

Through this special livelihood intervention, former rebels and their respective families are granted an amount of P20,000 to be used as their seed capital fund in starting a small business or income-generating project of their choice.

As part of the RTF-ELCAC, national agencies such as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) continue to conduct skills training to hone the potentials of the former rebels in managing their small businesses funded through the LSG.

Last year, 204 former rebels received their LSG. The DSWD continues to monitor and provide them with technical assistance.

In Agusan del Norte, three former rebels, Ernie, Jerry and Sheena (not their real names) shared how their lives have changed through the government’s help.

New-found opportunities

Ernie, a former rebel who surrendered in 2019, is one of those who received the Livelihood Settlement Grant on September 11, 2019.

Using the financial assistance that he received from the program, Ernie established a hog-raising project, regularly earning around P18,000 from the fattened pigs that he raised. To keep his income-generating project going, he nurtured sows and additional piglets.

Through his small business, Ernie is able to sustain his family’s needs even amidst the pandemic. He is determined to rebuild his life and provide a better future for his family by nurturing his livelihood venture.

Another former rebel who also surrendered in 2019, Jerry opted to venture into fruit and vegetable vending, selling a variety of fruits and vegetables, and occasionally, fresh fish in a roadside stall. His fruit and vegetable business helped him support his family even during the current pandemic.

“Dako akong pasalamat sa DSWD tungod sa gihatagad nga ayuda sa amo nga mga former rebels. Nakatabang kini dili lang sa among panginabuhian pero para kami sab makasugod usab. Nakahatag kini motibasyon sa akoa nga mamuyo og malinawon, layo sa among kinabuhi sauna nga delikado ug walay kasiguraduhan” (I am grateful to the DSWD for the assistance they have granted to us – former rebels. Aside from providing us a livelihood, this has also helped us to start again. This gesture has motivated me to live a peaceful life – far from our dangerous and uncertain life in the past), Jerry narrated.

Jerry and his family plan to expand their business and sell more varieties of fruits, as well as to engage in other small businesses to add to their resources.

On the other hand, for Sheena, cultivating a small vegetable garden where she planted string beans, monggo beans, eggplants, sweet potatoes, and cabbage, enabled her to earn P12,000 monthly from her harvests.

Aside from growing a vegetable garden, Sheena also engaged in hog-raising as an additional source of income. She said that surrendering was a great decision not just for her, but especially for her one-year-old child.

“Dako kaayo akong pasalamat sa tanan nga nitabang sa amo na mga former rebels labi na sa Philippine Army ug sa DSWD. Nakatabang kining assistance nga makabalik mi sa komunidad ug maka-survive sa pandemya usab” (I am immensely thankful to everyone who has helped us former rebels, particularly to the Philippine Army and the DSWD. The assistance shared with us has helped us get back and start a life in the community. This has made us survive the pandemic, too), Sheena explained.

A leap of faith

For Ernie, Jerry, and Sheena, turning away from their former lives was not easy. It meant taking a leap of faith and facing the dangers. But they took the risk so their families can have better lives.

With the government as their support, these individuals and their families are ready to embrace more opportunities and to continue treading in new directions.

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