Former combatants of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) completed Wednesday the initial stage of the government program to reintegrate rebel returnees into the mainstream society.
Brig. Gen. Roberto Capulong, commander of the Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the program aims to capacitate former combatants to enable them to become productive members of society.
A total of 22 former rebels took part in a week long activity, Capulong said, adding the program was conducted at the Bahay Tagapagpalaya of Camp Lucero, the brigade's headquarters in Carmen, North Cotabato.
On Feb. 20, the brigade launched its Returnee Comprehensive Aftercare Program (RCAP), a long term initiative aimed to rehabilitate, de radicalize, and reintegrate the returnees back to their communities.
The returnees are former combatants who recently surrendered to the military's 34th and 7th Infantry Battalions in the area, Capulong said.
The first day of the program included a lecture from Ustadz Abdulrakman Musa, who shared his thoughts about religion and peace.
On the second day, Team Jesus, a Manila based Civil Society Organization composed of medical doctors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers rendered health services. The returnees were informed of the different services and programs the government can offer during the multi stakeholder forum on the third day.
On Sunday, the returnees were treated to a one day tour in Davao City, where they dined and window shopped at SM mall, and posted with the life size image of President Rodrigo Duterte at his residence in Matina for souvenirs.
According to Capulong, the last day was sentimental for the returnees as they sang the Lupang Hinirang and Pilipinas Kong Mahal, and recited the Panunumpa sa Watawat and Panatang Makabayan together with 602nd Infantry Brigade troopers during Monday's flag raising ceremony.
It was the first time in their lives that they sang the national anthem and recited the Panatang Makabayan, Capulong told reporters Tuesday.
I dream of lasting peace and progress to prosper in the Moro communities � devoid of war and strife. You, too, must share that dream now. We established this 'Bahay Tagapagpalaya' to help you realize that dream, Capulong told the returnees.
Tagapagpalaya is an acronym for Tamang Gabay tungo sa Pagbabagong buhay na Payapa at may Laya.
SOURCE : PHILIPPINES NEWS AGENCY