SP okays deal with OPAPP on former rebs

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/ 29 February) – After being stalled for
almost four months, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has finally
authorized Gov. Alex Calingasan to sign the memorandum of agreement
with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process last
week, board member Jay Albarece told Bukidnon News.

The MOA covers rebel assistance to those who surrendered during the
previous administration but were unable to receive assistance under
the dissolved Social Integration Program. The SIP was terminated by
Pres. Benigno Aquino III upon his assumption.

Albarece, chair of the SP committee on peace and order, said the
provincial board passed the resolution granting authority to
Calingasan after the draft of the MOA went through a series of
questioning by Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. The MOA was first
endorsed by Calingasan in November.Calingasan signed the MOA last week, which was then endorsed to OPAPP
Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles for signing.

Maggs Barrios, OPAPP peace program officer for Region 10, said the
province is among the last to be able to finalize the MOA in Mindanao.

Albarece said the final draft, prepared in February after several
revisions, excluded the item requiring the Bukidnon Provincial Local
Government Unit to provide a safe house for the former rebels.

The final draft also fixed the number of the unserved former rebels
under the past administration’s Social Integration Program to 59
former rebels.

According to the draft, the beneficiaries who have been located will
receive their reintegration assistance from the two parties covered by
the guidelines and procedure to be provided. It includes livelihood
and employment support, scholarship grant, support to security
guarantees, legal assistance, health and medical support, employment
assistance, capacity building interventions and psychological support.

Hansel Echavez, provincial livelihood officer, said the provincial
government proposed the MOA under the OPAPP’s interim program dubbed
as Comprehensive Local Integration Plan.

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

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

Echavez, who has been facilitating livelihood assistance for rebel
returnees, said the OPAPP, 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.

But in the final draft, the additional 110 recent returnees may also
be considered for reintegration assistance after the initial
identification is conducted by the parties and a report is submitted
to the provincial government.

Albarece added this has to be verified under the Joint Verification
and Authentication Committee composed of representatives from the
military, police, the local government and the civil society
organizations.

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

However, according to the MOA, OPAPP will provide reintegration
assistance to the unserved former rebels but the amount was not
provided. Another contentious item in the MOA, Albarece added, is the
amount the province should give as its counterpart.

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

In the SIP, Echavez added, OPAPP provided maximum of P50,000 for
livelihood assistance. But it will be based on the former rebel’s
individual reintegration plan.

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 earlier this month the signing of the MOA is urgent
as it would affect the campaign for more rebels to surrender. (Walter
I. Balane)

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