By Apipa P. Bagumbaran
MARAWI CITY, July 24 (PIA) — The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) conducted a peace conversation with 41 former members of the Dawla Islamiya Local Terrorist Group who recently returned to the folds of the law.
James Alih Abdul, OPAPP area manager for Northern Mindanao, said this initiative is part of the continuing efforts to promote social healing and reconciliation, as well as to strengthen cooperation among rebel returnees.
During the peace conversation, the returnees were given the opportunity to share their concerns and the assistance they will be needing to start their lives anew.
Twenty-five (25) kilos of rice, canned goods, hygiene packs, and other assorted food items were also distributed to them.
One of the returnees expressed gratitude to OPAPP for the relief items. “Nagpapasalamat kami sa OPAPP dahil last year ay naghatid sila ng pang Ramadan at Eidl Fitr. Sa ngayon naman, dahil sa COVID ay mahirap ang sitwasyon namin kaya kahit konting tulong ay masaya kami,” said Alias Amirsab.
(We are thankful to OPAPP because last year they delivered Ramadan and Eidl Fitr packs. Right now, because of COVID, our situation is difficult so we are happy even a little help.
Although they have been receiving food packs, Amirsab hopes they will be given livelihood and immediate cash assistance.
“Kailangan namin ngayon ng cash assistance, kahit konti ay makatulong sa amin sa pagbili ng mga gamit para pangkabuhayan,” he said.
(We need cash assistance, at the least to help us purchase items for our livelihood.)
Meanwhile, Abdul assured that OPAPP will continue to assist the former rebels until they are fully reintegrated into the society.
He also asked the returnees to convince their former comrades to abandon their armed struggle and return to the folds of the law.
On the part of the local government, Madalum Vice Mayor Usman Sarangani Sr. pledged that they will constantly coordinate with the 55th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army to discuss how they can provide livelihood support to the former rebels.
The 55th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, on the other hand, committed to continuously monitor and protect the former rebels against any threat to their lives.
“We find it our responsibility to protect them as well. We also have coordination with the other agencies especially the local government units and the Philippine National Police to integrate our efforts when it comes to their security. We are hopeful that they will be given something that is sustainable so that they will not be enticed to return to the terrorist group,” said LtCol. Franco Raphael Alano, commanding officer of the 55th Infantry Battalion.
The peace conversation and relief distribution held on July 20 at Madalum Municipal Complex were made possible through the assistance of the 55th Infantry Battalion. (APB/PIA ICIC)