Friday, November 28, 2014

Two Rebels In Kalinga Receive 45,000 And 20,000 Pesos Each For Surrendering

According to a report by Larry Lopez of the Philippine Information Agency, two rebels in Kalinga province were awarded financial aid by the government for surrendering and giving up their firearms. One rebel received a check worth 45,000 pesos after giving up an M-16 ArmaLite rifle. The other rebel received 20,000 pesos for surrendering his Carbine rifle. Although the name of the rebel group that the two returnees belonged to wasn't named in the report, it's likely that it's the New Peoples Army (NPA) as this is the only rebel group that operates in the Cordillera region.

The reward given to the two returnees is part of the Philippine government's Guns-For-Peace Program (GFP), formerly known as Balik-Baril Program. The program basically calls on rebels to return to the government's fold with the promise that they will be rewarded not only with cash but assistance in finding new livelihoods.

The two men in Kalinga (they were not named for security reasons) received their checks from Paul Atal, Commander of the Army's 501st Brigade and Kalinga Governor Jocel C. Baac. During the awarding rites, Atal also mentioned that they have at least 300,000 pesos in funds remaining in their program ready to be handed out to returnees.

The government's GFP program has been mired by controversy ever since it started in the late 1980s. Although authorities often insist that the program is helping, there's not enough data to back up such claims. The program has also been used for corruption among the military ranks. Some people have accused the program as a tool used by corrupt military officials to enrich themselves. Fake rebels are allegedly presented along with their surrendered weapons so that they can collect the reward money.
Photo by Bill Bradford via Flickr.
Many people are also questioning the reasoning behind the program, citing that the program will only entice rebels to surrender for the wrong reasons. That is they lay down their arms for the sole purpose of collecting the reward money. And what happens after they surrender? Who is monitoring them? Who's checking if they are keeping their promises? What's being done to make sure that they don't return to the mountains?