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150 join ‘rally’ vs. communists

Some 150 residents of Barangay Igangon, San Isidro town in Davao del Norte staged a “peace rally” on Sunday to dissociate themselves from the communist groups and their legal fronts.

1Lt Amadeuz Vj Celestial, Civil Military Operations officer of 60th Infantry Battalion, said the withdrawal of support was in time with the commemoration of the 122nd anniversary of the declaration of Philippine independence last Friday.

The village has also declared the rebels as persona non grata.

Celestial said those who attended the event were former members of the underground mass organizations of the rebels in the area, with the rebels tapping some of them even as couriers, spies, and even saboteurs of government projects and initiatives.

He said those who joined the event voluntarily submitted themselves to the Community Support Team of the 60th Infantry Battalion (60IB) in San Isidro.

Many of them are also immediate family members of active New People’s Army regulars.

The military unit and the local government unit of the place launched the Community Support Program (CSP) in the barangay last March to facilitate the delivery of government services and programs, especially in the conflict affected boundary areas of the municipality.

Through continuous dialogue, visitations, and delivery of services, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the CSP was able to convince the CPP-NPA members and supporters to surface and voluntarily cooperate with the authorities.

“The whole point of our CSP is to convince these victims of the CPP-NPA to turn from their communist-terrorist ideology and withdraw all forms of support to the CPP-NPA. But instead of coercing them to do so, we approached them through peaceful dialogues, and we helped them resolved their individual, family, and community issues,” Celestial said.

To culminate the program, the municipal government and the military unit conducted a three-day seminar which included a one-day “all government programs and services orientation” featuring the provincial and municipal local governments’ skills, education, livelihood, employment, and financial programs.

The second day of the seminar focused on the various programs that can be availed of by former NPA regulars and Milisya ng Bayan under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. There was also an information briefing on other non-economic programs such as on health and social welfare services.

During the seminar, the participants also underwent team-building activities and workshops that promoted unity, patriotism, bayanihan, and other Filipino spiritual and moral values that have been lost to their community due to the CPP-NPA’s influence in their barangay.

On the last day of the activity, the participants staged a “peace rally” which was highlighted with the burning of the CPP, NPA, and NDF flags; reciting of oath of withdrawal of support from the CPP-NPA; and the ceremonial reading and signing of the Barangay’s declaration of ‘Persona Non Grata’ against the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Messages of support for the government’s ongoing campaign to end the local communist armed conflict were expressed by the participants.

As a gesture of support, the municipal government and the provincial government of Davao del Norte turned over farm inputs for the newly established peoples’ organizations in the barangay and vowed to continue assisting them as they start anew with their life as a ‘normal community.’

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