Former rebel combatants are seen during the culmination of their three-day Moral Recovery, Healing and Reconciliation Seminar Friday, September 13, 2019, in Banga town in South Cotabato. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem / DSWD-12)

BANGA, SOUTH COTABATO — A senior social welfare official urged rebel returnees Friday to help the state convince their comrades to return to the folds of the law, saying President Rodrigo Duterte administration is sincere in providing them livelihood and other needed support for their families.

Cezario Joel Espejo, Department of Social Welfare and Development regional director, made the appeal as he graced the Moral Recovery, Healing and Reconciliation Seminar here attended by 49 former New Peoples Army guerrillas who all claimed they were enlightened by local officials good intentions to help when they yielded to authorities.

“We need your support to help convince others to surrender. You are all witnesses about the sincerity of the government  whole-of-nation efforts to make this country peaceful,” Dir. Espejo said.

The three-day activity, according to Dir. Espejo, fortified the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 signed by President Duterte on December last year, directing the adoption of a national peace framework and institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach to attain “inclusive and sustainable peace” in the country as part of approach in “addressing the root causes” of the armed conflict.

Dir. Espejo handed over Php 3,150 cash to each participant as part of compensation for leaving behind their work in their respective communities while attending the seminar workshop. 

At the same time, returnees were also briefed of the programs prepared by other government agencies like the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Labor and Employment, Commission on Higher Education and livelihood support packages from the provincial government. 

“This is just the start. The government’s program intended for all will follow,” Dir. Espejo said.

A returnee who introduced himself as Sidma, in his 40s, said he is thankful for the government intervention he described will improve his family’s life from poverty.

Two months ago, the DSWD and Armed Forces of the Philippines forged a joint agreement to enhance cooperation particularly in peace-building programs that will curve threat posed by the conflict in the communists. (DSWD-12 / Jeoffrey Maitem)