SEVENTY-TWO residents of a far-flung village in Panabo City, Davao del Norte were baptized in Catholic rites this week in a move by local police to provide them with civil records in order for them to qualify for government services and other programs.
The eldest is 54 and the youngest is barely two months old.
Police Regional Office 11 director, Brigadier General Filmore B. Escobal said the newly-baptized adult residents of Bgy. Maduao also renounced the New People’s Army movement in the region and vowed to support the government in its effort to end the decades-long communist insurgency.
The mass baptismal rites in Bgy. Maduao were led by Brig. Gen. Escobal and PRO11 regional pastoral officer, Lieutenant Colonel Marlou N. Labares last Tuesday. Chaplains from the Navy, Coast Guard and Army led by Lt. Commander Tyrone Narisma, Lt. Peter Ezarsa, Lt. Col. Melchor Torayno, Major Hernando Batomalaque and Captain Pedro Maniwang also joined the occasion.
Escobal said the mass baptism was a project of the PRO11 R-PSB or Revitalized-Pulis Sa Barangay team deployed in the area which is known for being an NPA mass base.
The Southern Mindanao police director said the R-PSB team led by Lieutenants Sonny Boy Ococa and Dennis Malayo discovered during that many local residents have no birth certificates and records at the local civil registrar and Philippine Statistics Authority prompting them to initiate the project.
Escobal said their R-PSB team sought the birth registration of the villagers with the local civil registrar, local government unit and other government agencies in the region.
However, a problem cropped up when it turned out that the villagers’ registration cannot be processed since they have no documents to support their identities, thus their baptism to enable them to acquire their baptismal certificates.
Escobal said the local civil registrar acknowledged the baptismal certificates as a supporting document to process the individual birth certificates of the applicants thru late registration.
Following their baptism, the 72 will qualify for registration to the National ID System which will enable them to avail of government services such as the Philhealth and 4PS.
“Their children will also be able to go to school now having established their respective identities,” Escobal said as he reminded Region 11 residents that the R-PSB personnel were deployed to far-flung barangays not to sow fear with their guns but to protect the people as well as bring peace and progress.
During the event, Bgy. Captain Manolito Alcober requested Escobal and Panabo City Mayor Jose Relampagos to build a police sub-station in their area noting the hard work displayed by the R-PSB officers and men who have been building peace and progress in the region’s geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAS).
Escobal encouraged local residents to further support the program of Duterte to end communist insurgency by delivering government services right in their communities. The PRO11 R-PSB men have also helped build roads and toilets for indigenous tribes in the region.
“We are fully implementing the instruction of the President to deliver the services of the government to people living in the farthest barangays in Southern Mindanao and are calling on residents to stop supporting the NPA and to not allow their place to be called a mass base or the people as ‘masa,’ said the PRO11 director.
The PRO11 has been concentrating efforts to deliver government service to GIDAS in the region and look at issues that have been blamed on the failure of the government to deliver.
Escobal said other national agencies cannot reach the GIDAS due to their lack of personnel, thus their R-PSB personnel are filling up the gap and reaching out to the remotest barangays which are easy target of the NPA.
The project officer of the R-PSB, PRO11 Deputy Regional Director for Operations, Colonel Edgar Alan O. Okubo said that at present, R-PSB personnel have been deployed in 55 priority barangays in Southern Mindanao.
Okubo said that during the most recent meeting, the Regional Task Force on Effort To End Local Communist Armed Conflict have elevated to 212 barangays the total number of priorities for R-PSB deployment.