OPAPP, Bukidnon deal for former rebels still hanging

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/10 February) – The provincial
government of Bukidnon and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on
the Peace Process (OPAPP) have not signed the memorandum of agreement
on benefits for former rebels pending some clarifications made by the
provincial board, a member of the legislative body said on Thursday.

Jay Albarece, who chairs the committees on laws and peace and
order,said the provincial board wanted to iron out some provisions not
only with OPAPP but also with the office of the governor, although
Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. vowed to have it approved.

In the board’s session last week Zubiri asked for the specific number
of beneficiaries and the amount of financial assistance the provincial
government will extend, among others.

The MOA covers rebels who surrendered during the previous
administration but were unable to receive assistance under the
dissolved Social Integration Program.

President Benigno S. Aquino III terminated the SIP upon his assumption.

But OPAPP Assistant Secretary Rose Romero said they have an “interim
program” for the meantime that they are preparing a new scheme called
Local Integration Program to be coursed through the local government
units.

The provincial government proposed the MOA under this interim program,
Hansel Echavez, provincial livelihood officer said.

He added the questions from the board arose because there has been no
explanation on the changes in the integration program [for former
rebels].

The MOA was first endorsed by Gov. Alex Calingasan to the board in November.

Albarece affirmed Echavez’ statement saying the board wanted to
clarify many things with OPAPP.

Echavez, who has been facilitating livelihood assistance for rebels
who surrendered, said the OPAPP and, the provincial government and
other agencies need to reconcile their data.

He cited that the previous draft of the MOA only indicated 59
beneficiaries who have not received assistance from OPAPP instead of
169.

The number does not include those who surrendered last year with
Benjamin Salusad, a former rebel who allegedly turned to banditry in
San Fernando and neighboring towns.

Another contentious item in the MOA, he added, is the amount the
province should give as its counterpart.

He said the new proposed MOA provides for P30,000 as livelihood
assistance for each surrenderee from the provincial government, but
Zubiri wanted to trim it down to P15,000.

In the SIP, Echavez added, OPAPP provided P50,000 for livelihood assistance.

He said in the new OPAPP guidelines, the assistance will be based on
the needs of the former rebels.

Col. Romeo Gapuz, chief of the 403rd Infantry Brigade told the
provincial board last week the signing of the MOA is urgent as it
would affect the campaign for more rebels to surrender. (Walter
I.Balane/Bukidnon News)

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