Congress urged to probe possible corruption in ‘fake’ rebel returnees
MANILA, Philippines – Two left-leaning groups have asked Congress to investigate a possible corruption scheme in the government’s program for rebel returnees as the Philippine Army admitted to manipulating photos showing alleged former communist fighters.
Both Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and Bayan Muna have urged lawmakers to check the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), claiming that it is possible for authorities to invent supposed rebel returnees and then bag the P65,000 prize for each ex-fighter.
“Nanawagan ang Bayan sa Kongreso na imbestigahan ang E-CLIP rebel surrenderee program ng gobyerno matapos ang aminin ng AFP na nagmanipula (Photoshop) sila ng mga larawan ng mga rebel surrenderees sa Masbate,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said in a message to reporters.
(Bayan is calling on Congress to investigate the E-CLIP rebel surrenderee program of the government, after the Armed Forces of the Philippines admitted that they manipulated the photos of rebel surrenderees in Masbate.)
“Pero ang nakakabahala ay ang posibleng corruption sa bawat pekeng surrender. Sa ilalim ng Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program ay binibigyan ng P65,000 ang bawat sumusukong NPA. May katumbas na pera din ang nagsusuko ng baril. Sa 2020 budget ay dinagdagan ng P131.864 million ang budget ng DND para sa E-CLIP implementation,” he added.
(But what is alarming is the possible corruption with each possible fake surrender. Under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, each surrendering rebel is given P65,000. There is also money for surrendering firearms. In the 2020 budget, the Defense budget was boosted by P131.8 million for the E-CLIP implementation.)
Reyes and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate meanwhile said that even if only P30,000 is given to the surrenderees, and if reports about 306 former rebels who surrendered in Masbate were just fabricated, then it would mean P9.180 million may be shelved by the military unit involved.
“What is worse though is that they are apparently also recycling these pictures and fake surrenderees and present them as new surrenderees. Media reports said the Masbate picture has been used since 2017 up till yesterday,” Zarate explained.
“Kung napepeke ang datos ng rebel surrenderees ay tiyak may kurapsyon na nagaganap. May kumikita sa bawat pekeng surrender. Matagal nang nirereklamo ng mga magsasaka ang sapilitang pagpapasuko at photo ops,” Reyes added.
(If they can fake the data of the rebel surrenderees, then corruption surely occurred. Someone benefitted from the fake surrenders. Farmers have long complained about this scheme where they are forced to surrender and pose for ceremonial photos.)
Photos of the alleged ceremony for rebel returnees went viral on social media after people pointed out that it was photoshopped and made to appear that there were people standing in front of surrendered firearms on a table.
The Army earlier admitted manipulating the photo, but clarified that the photoshopped people were really rebel returnees, and the measure was only done to protect their identities.
“In our ardent desire to release timely information, we were not able to double-check the pictures we attached in our press release,” 9th Infantry Division public affairs chief Army Major Ricky Aguilar said.
“We admit to having committed a mistake though by manipulating the picture for the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of the lives of the rebels that surrendered, including their families,” he said. “We apologize for the honest mistake. We are hoping for your understanding.”
Currently, communist rebels from the New People’s Army (NPA) are still fighting government forces in the countryside. When President Rodrigo Duterte took office, leftists had hoped that the fighting would end.
However, Duterte has canceled and re-opened the peace talks for several times in his three-year term. Recently, the President again opened the table for such discussions, seeking a conversation with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder and his former professor, Jose Maria Sison.
Edited by JE
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