MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 April) – The stalled Social Integration Program (SIP) of the national government is “greatly affecting” the peace efforts in the province, Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan told a press conference Monday.
Calingasan said many New People’s Army rebels who surrendered to the government have become uneasy over the delay of the release of social integration funds from the national government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
The governor said he was told that 10 rebels who wanted to surrender firearms through the SIP’s Balik Baril scheme were having second thoughts because they weren’t sure if the program was still ongoing.
He stressed the point to reporters after the graduation rites of a new batch of 192 graduates of the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) Basic Military Training at Camp Osito Bahian, in Impalambong, Malaybalay City. During the opening program of the Broadcasters’ Month on April 7 organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Bukidnon Chapter, Calingasan said the provincial government was forced to give initial livelihood funds to 102 persons who surrendered to the government last year in Cabanglasan town. The provincial government released P15,000 each to the “uneasy” returnees, he added.
Col. Romeo Gapuz, 403rd Brigade commanding officer, said the Balik Baril program was temporarily stopped pending a review of its rewards system. He said there were suspicions the system was being abused.
“Until OPAPP redesigns the system that’s the time we can resume with the program,” he added.
But Gapuz denied there were people who abused the system.
He said there were doubts about some of the surrenderees who did not turn in firearms.
“If they have no firearms they must be in the OB (order of battle) to be admitted in the reward system,” he added.
Calingasan defended his position favoring the creation of more SCAA units in the province even if he wants peace. He said the SCAA are there to defend, not to make offensives,” he added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)