“I am not afraid of my shadow, I am free,” was the words of Juan (not his real name), 51 years old, of Bohol, after he returned to the fold of the law.

He was a former member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), operating in Bohol. He was a member for 20 years until his wife begged him to stop and come back to the fold of the law. His wife’s pleading made him ponder and consider things. He then lay low from his involvement with the left. Since community service is in his blood, he later became a volunteer of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), a poverty alleviation program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) implemented in their municipality.

Juan (not his real name) shows off his fishing net and the newly refurbished paddle boats he acquired from the Livelihood Settlement Grant (LSG).

He served as a chairperson of the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC) of Kalahi-CIDSS. In his leadership in 2000, they were able to complete a farm-to-market road that cost almost 1 million pesos.

“I just love to offer my service to our community,” narrated Juan as he recalled his neighbors having convinced him to run as barangay councilor in the 2014 election. Now is his second term as a public official. Juan, in his younger years, would often observe his father doing public service and helping the community. This was etched in his young mind that he will also serve his community when he’s mature enough to serve.

Juan’s family became a Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiary in 2010.  Two of his four children are in the program. Despite receiving the Pantawid grants, Juan and his wife, Elsa (not her real name), strive to earn a living to put food on their table.

From laying low, Juan voluntarily surrendered in 2018 to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee and Headquarters 302nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army. He was one of the 54 rebel returnees in the province who surrendered to the government. The decision he made set him free from worries, “I am not afraid anymore, I can walk freely, I am free,” said Juan.

In 2020, two years later, Juan and the 54 others received a grant of Php 20,000 cash each from the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) under the Executive Order 70’s Livelihood Settlement Grant (LSG). The program provides an opportunity for the former rebels to thrive and start their chosen livelihood.

Executive Order 70 was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in December 2018 institutionalizing a whole-of-nation approach in addressing the local communist armed conflict. E-CLIP as part of the EO 70, is designed intended for former rebels or those living in armed-conflict areas to leave and have normal lives by giving them access to government programs and services. As one of the implementing agencies of the EO70, the Oplan-Balik Loob program of the government, the DSWD continues to serve and provide livelihood assistance to former rebels and their families, individuals, and communities in conflict-affected and vulnerable areas.

As a fisherman, Juan used the grant to purchase two (2) additional complete sets of fishnets and have his two (2) paddle boats repaired and refurbished as a fisherman.

He hired four (4) fisherfolk to help the fish operations and manage one of the fishing boats.

Pedro (not his real name), one of the hired men, thanked Juan because his employment provides income to his family. Pedro added that the estimated weekly income is approximately Php 6,000.00, which would be divided equally among the five of them, including Juan.

“This helps us a lot, for we can provide for our family with our income in fishing,” shared Pedro.

Juan hopes to see more returnees like him. He said, “I cannot force them because they have their ideology, but it would be good if they return to government for their families.”

According to him, he is happy to have taken the new path settled with his family. Indeed, the government has helped him improve his and other families’ lives through the DSWD. ###

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