By DSWD | 02:03 PM January 25, 2022
“I am not afraid of my shadow, I am free,” Juan (not his real name) declared proudly.
Juan, 51, has been hiding in his shadow for over two decades and was a former member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front or CPP-NPA-NDF, operating in the province of Bohol.
Like anyone else who has been in the darkest side of his/her life, Juan was given the chance to see the light along his way, eventually. Considering the opportunity towards change that was handed over to him through the various programs and services of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that he became part of, along with his wife’s pleading, he gradually lay low from his involvement with the left, making him inactive from any of its activities.
Since community service is in his blood, as he had observed his father doing public service during his younger years, he became a volunteer of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services or Kalahi-CIDSS in 2000. Kalahi-CIDSS is a poverty alleviation program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) implemented in their community.
“I just love to offer my service to our community,” said Juan.
During his tenure in the program, he also served as the chairperson of the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee of Kalahi-CIDSS and the group was able to accomplish a farm-to-market road project worth almost Php1 million.
Because of his efforts and contributions to the community, his neighbors actually encouraged him to run as a barangay councilor in the 2014 election. He was convinced then, and has served two terms as a public official.
In 2010, Juan’s family became a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) with his four children as grantees of the program. Despite the assistance they were receiving from 4Ps, Juan and his wife continued to strive to earn a living to put food on their table.
After laying low, he finally freed himself from the shadow that covered his life. Juan, together with other 54 returnees in the province, voluntarily surfaced in 2018 to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee and Headquarters 302nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. He then saw the hope that came with his willingness to come back into mainstream society.
“I am not afraid anymore, I can walk freely, I am free!” Juan proudly said.
At a glance, E-CLIP is part of the Executive Order 70 that was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018, as the whole-of-nation approach of the government to address local communist armed conflict. Furthermore, E-CLIP is designed to provide opportunities for the former rebels to live a normal life by giving them access to government programs and services.
The DSWD, as the lead agency for social protection and as one of the implementing agencies of the EO70, continues to provide livelihood assistance to former rebels and their families, as well as to individuals and communities in conflict-affected and vulnerable areas.
In 2020, Juan and other returnees, received a grant of Php 20,000 each from Sustainable Livelihood Program under the Executive Order 70’s Livelihood Assistance Grant. With this, former rebels were provided with an opportunity to thrive and start their chosen livelihood.
As a fisherman, Juan used the grant to purchase two additional complete sets of fishnets and refurbish and repair his two paddle boats. He also hired four fishers to help him with his fishing operations and manage one of the boats. Pedro, not his real name, one of the hired men, thanked Juan for giving him the job that provides a living for his family.
The group has an estimated weekly income of Php 6,000 which would be divided equally among them, including Juan. “This helps us a lot, for we can provide for our family with our income from fishing,” Pedro shared.
Juan is hopeful to see more returnees like him. He is glad to have taken the new path which is safer, worry-free and more settled with his family.
Indeed, the government has helped him see the light and be freed to improve his life.
This story originally appeared at DSWD website.