A Call for Resolution
In a significant move towards peace and reconciliation, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) in Eastern Mindanao is rallying behind Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante’s efforts to expedite the cases of former rebels (FRs).
In a statement released on a Monday afternoon, Elisa Evangelista-Lapiña, Director of OPAPRU Eastern Mindanao, explained that this initiative aims to persuade the remaining New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the province to lay down their arms and embrace a peaceful future.
Challenges Facing FRs
Lapiña emphasized, “The remaining armed combatants are apprehensive about returning to the folds of the law due to their pending court cases.” As of September 25, OPAPRU data revealed that around 122 FRs in Agusan del Norte are entangled in legal proceedings.
A Call for Coordination
“To achieve our goal,” Lapiña stressed, “there is a need to strengthen the coordination between other government agencies, such as the Public Attorney’s Office, the Provincial Government of Agusan del Norte, and volunteer legal partners, who will actively monitor the progress of FRs’ cases.”
Stories of Redemption
Among those who have found hope in this move are Ka Adel and Ka Rosa, former NPA insurgents who expressed gratitude for the initiative. Adel, facing murder and frustrated murder charges, surrendered late last year and is currently processing benefits from the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. Meanwhile, Rosa, who surrendered on January 5 this year, is grappling with attempted murder cases.
Voices from the FRs
“The move to help us fast-track the resolution of our cases is a relief,” Rosa expressed in a phone interview on Tuesday. These cases, she emphasized, are burdens that former rebels continue to carry as they strive to reintegrate into their communities. The resolution of these legal matters not only signifies justice but also offers FRs a fresh start to become productive members of society once again.
A Beacon of Hope
Last week, the provincial government of Agusan del Norte and OPAPRU jointly inaugurated the Kagawasan 143 Peace Center in Barangay Bancasi. This pioneering peace center is aimed at fostering understanding and providing support to FRs who have chosen the path of peace and reconciliation.
The center’s vision extends beyond symbolism; moreover, it serves as a tangible resource hub for FRs, offering them the necessary tools and opportunities to reintegrate seamlessly into society. This monumental step, furthermore, signifies a deep commitment to healing wounds, rebuilding lives, and ultimately, forging a lasting peace in the region.