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Sitting with the Rebels

January 31, 2018

I used to not understand the complexity of insurgency; how it is deeply rooted onto ideologies so unfamiliar from what is taught through tradition.

The people branded as rebels have been stereotyped as savages. They are a people civilians have learned to fear.

What most fail to see is, they too are just, well, people. They too deserve to be heard, to be seen, to be felt, to be taken cared of. They too are citizens of this universe and they too have rights and is protected by the laws of the land.

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Now I’m not saying what they do is generally acceptable especially when clashing and raising arms against the military or when civilians get involuntarily dragged into their encounters, everything has it’s limitations. But what I’m trying to get at is despite the ruthlessness and notoriety, they have the right to equal opportunities accorded to all.

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Insurgency has always been a prevalent problem in our country which is why the government has created programs that extend development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind. Programs anchored on inclusion, accountability, transparency and sustainability.

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For those unaware, I work with the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental under the Technology and Livelihood Development division. PGNO already has an existing peace program through the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit (Pro-PIDU) in partnership with the 303rd Brigade wherein former combatants who decide to surrender arms will receive a livelihood package. The province has an existing half-way house wherein returnees are debriefed for reintegration to equip them when they start a civilized lifestyle.

For this year, our office as part of the Pro-PIDU, decided to focus our services on armed conflict-affected communities considering that areas tagged as such receive the least due to the risk involved.

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Last week, we’ve started our first tranche immersing into these areas doing orientations on our services, livelihood trainings and assistance, conducting surveys and just simply getting to know the people and their culture.

I’ve cried more than once this past week, their stories are so heartbreaking. And I’ve seen first hand what it is like to live a life like theirs.

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There are so many problems most especially the basics: water, shelter, health. I’ve learned (and seen) that greed has grossly plagued those in power at the expense of the poor, thus insurgency. It has become a vicious cycle. The lack of political will gravely affects the marginalized and it is so sad.

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But we’ve expressed that not everyone in government is tainted. And I am glad that the communities we interacted with gave us the chance to be heard and is open to our aid.

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Despite their present situations, the people are generally happy and very accommodating. They’ve given us a feast (they grow their own food).

The experience is very humbling. Makes you realize how petty your problems are.

Thank you to the communities, the Barangay Captains and Council, the PNP for facilitating our visits and accommodating us. Thank you universe for keeping us safe.

 

xx

DMV

 

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