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Duterte reiterates support to rebel returnees

By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

Amid the souring relationship between the government and the communist rebels, President Duterte met with two rebel returnees from the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao City Saturday.

In photos provided by Malacañang, Duterte met with the male and female NPA surrenderees was presented to Duterte and some members of his Cabinet at the Matina Enclaves in the President’s hometown.

Joining the President were Interior Undersecretary Eduardo Año, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Agrarian Reform Acting Secretary John Castriciones, and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.

Malacañang, in a statement, said Duterte vowed an inclusive government as he welcomed the two rebel returnees and appealed for their continued support to the administration.

The President also reportedly expressed his gratitude to the two former rebels for deciding to surrender to government, assuring them that they will be welcomed and accepted.

“The President assured the rebel returnees of government’s protection and assistance as they begin to immerse in the civilian way of life,” The Palace statement read.

Malacañang said that the former rebels were each given a transitory housing unit, cash and financial assistance, food packs, and a smartphone.

Duterte has been calling for members of the NPA to surrender to the government and promised protection, jobs, and housing to those who would do so.

“Look, I am addressing myself to all the soldiers of the New People’s Army. Mag-surrender na lang kayo ngayon at ibaba ninyo ang inyong baril o i-surrender ninyo. May trabaho kayo naghihintay. At (Surrender now and lay down your arms. There are jobs waiting for you and) I am building, all throughout the country, almost 5,000 [houses] sa (at the) National Housing Authority,” Duterte said last November.

Duterte also promised to make rebel returnees members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and even allowed them to keep their firearms.

Last month, Duterte promised 700 former rebels, mostly from the NPA, that he will give them protection and assistance as they reintegrate to the society.

“I am obliged to give you protection, the same way I look after my soldiers because it’s their job, too. You who surrendered, I will also gamble my life for you. I will also protect you. I will help you stand up. I won’t starve you,” Duterte told the former rebels.

He also urged the NPA to not go after their former comrades who decided to join the government.

“If you hurt them—Whatever you will do to them, I will also do to you. That’s how it is. That’s oppression,” the President continued.

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