SEN. Emmanuel Pacquiao believes that the insurgency problem is rooted on widespread corruption that has denied rural areas the necessary basic services.
The senator said the decades-old insurgency problem and corruption had prevented the government from bringing needed infrastructure, quality education and livelihood in affected areas.
An Army colonel reservist, Pacquiao said many rural folks, especially the lumads were lured to join the New People’s Army because of the absence of government support for their communities.
“Hindi nabibigyan ng suporta ang ating mga lumad dahil sa matinding kurapsyon (Our lumad [communities] were not given [enough government] support because of massive corruption),” he said during the presentation of 130 former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA at the 88th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Maramag, Bukidnon.
The surrenderees, mostly members of the Manobo-Higaonon tribes, turned over several high-powered firearms.
The senator lamented that the funds for school building, road construction and provision of livelihood in the countryside were “pocketed by corrupt and greedy politicians.”
“We need to remove all [of these] corrupt [politicians] to encourage more rebels to return to the fold of government. The NPA was able to have the opportunity to recruit in lumad communities due to lack of livelihood and support from government,” he said in Filipino.
Pacquiao coordinated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development office in Region 10 so that the surrenderees could apply for financial aid through its Sustainable Livelihood Program. They will be given funding for rabbit farming.
Investors from Davao City and General Santos City have pledged to buy live rabbits from the surrenderees.
The senator said one pressing problem in lumad communities was the lack of housing despite clear provisions under Republic Act 8371 that guarantees their right to their ancestral domain.
Pacquaio urged the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples to expedite the issuance of ancestral domain titles for the lumads as a gesture of the government’s commitment to help the indigenous people.
He promised to focus on streamlining the process of titling for ancestral lands.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Works said he would also ask the Department of Public Works and Highways to construct access roads and post-harvest facilities for the communities of the rebel surenderees.
He pointed out that rebel returnees need sustainable livelihood support.
Pacquiao instructed his office to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture for the “needs assessment” of the surrenderees, which would allow him to determine the support that they need.
After receiving the rebel surrenderees, Pacquiao proceeded to Barangay Panadtalan to distribute grocery packs, cooked chicken and cash aid to some 1,000 residents in Maramag town.