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Feature: Friends rescued: A tale of overcoming insurgency, wrong ideology in Lanao Sur

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur (PIA)--It has been known that for the past years, the southern part of the Philippines has been challenged by the existence of unlawful pacts advancing uprisings against the government and laws maintaining harmony in a normal society.

In Lanao del Sur, one prominent organization is the Dawlah Islamiya-Maute Group (DI-MG). This group has been identified as promoting the wrong ideology and has played a key role in leading some places into warfare, including Butig town and the city here.

However, the government has been steadfast in ending this almost unceasing armed struggle, not only through responding to firefights but also by displaying benevolence to hearten militia members to come down from their fortress and finally return to the fold of law.

Such a strategic move has indeed borne fruit, as more have responded to the call, embraced normal life, and are now advocates of peace being recognized as ‘friends rescued.’

Ministry of Public Order and Safety (MPOS) Director General Lawyer Al-Rashid Balt conveys the dedication of the government to end insurgency in the Bangsamoro region through encouraging combatants to yield themselves and return to the fold of law. (MJP/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)

From skirmish to tranquil community

The ‘friends rescued’ could testify to how they felt when they discerned and boiled down to the decision to turn their back on their group.

One of these was alias Yaquiyna, who became a DI-MG member for four years only because she was the wife of a former DI-MG militant from this city.

She remembered that it was on June 14 this year when government troops initiated an operation which resulted in the neutralization of the DI-MG leader, Abu Zacaria, and his member, Abu Morsid.

Yaquiyna shared that they were then led to the camp of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, where they received enlightenment and assurance that the army would no longer view them as hostile adversaries but as individuals on the path to eventual emancipation.

With her stay with the soldiers, she attested that she was somehow begotten again with new doors of opportunity, opened to foster progress in their lives and allow them to relish more positive experiences such as mingling with civilians and getting closer to their Almighty Allah.

Moreover, Yaquiyna was more than elated to have proved that their prejudice about soldiers was far from what was true since they were not oppressors.

"Pinakinggan nila kami kung ano ang pinaglalaban namin at inintindi nila kami. Alhamdulillah, maayos naman ang kalagayan ko lalo na nang nasa brigade na ako. They are very compassionate sa pakikitungo sa amin. Ang mga babae lang ang nagha-handle sa amin at walang lalaki kasi may cultural sensitivity sila [They listened to what we were fighting for and they understood us. Alhamdulillah, our situation is fine, especially since I am already in the brigade. They are very compassionate in dwelling with us. Only women handle us, and no men because they have cultural sensitivity]," she said.

Sarah, who was also a DI-MG member for seven years as the wife of a former local insurgent, confirmed this.

She conveyed a strong sense that, after a long time, their minds had been enlightened, dispelling their mistaken thinking.

As a mother of three, Sarah was delighted that she could spend enough time with her offspring, considering they could already move into a secure environment without harshness threatening their lives.

"Ang sarap (ng feeling na natatamasa ang peace), especially na naiisip ko ang mga anak. Nabuksan ang isipan namin na pwede palang mangyari na pwede tayong magkaisa. Sabi ko ang kitid naman ng isipan ko at namin noon [It is wonderful to relish peace, especially when I think of my children. It opened our minds to the possibility of uniting. I said our minds were so close that we did not think of this before]," she said. 

As stated by alias Yaquiyna, former insurgents in Lanao del Sur can testify that the government troops do not treat them as enemies since they are handled very well. (MJP/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)

Welcoming government initiatives to nurture development

To reward the brave decisions of the friends rescued to yield and integrate into the mainstream, the government vowed to pour in comprehensive interventions to address the returnees' needs and concerns.

The most recent initiative was the three-day peace-building training that the Ministry of Public Order and Safety (MPOS) and the 103rd Infantry Brigade organized, in collaboration with the Lanao del Sur provincial government, the Strategic Communications and Capacity Building (SCCB) Project, and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), where at least 131 former insurgents had the opportunity to express their thoughts and receive various aids.

Yaquiyna and Sarah both stressed that through this program, they were pulled closer to the government with their bonds made sturdy, their incorrect anticipation totally eradicated, and their promising future drawn vividly.

Because of this, they underlined her satisfaction, seeing that everything had surely been exhausted for their benefit.

Reflecting on their latest condition, Yaquiyna and Sarah prayed that society would fully accept them and would perceive them as citizens striving to do better to give back to their community.

"Sana ang mga civilian na makakasama namin sa community ay hindi kami itreat as enemies. Iembrace sana nila kami wholeheartedly, kasi tao lang din kami. We just need to be educated sa mga bagay-bagay para maiwasan ang pagiging extremist [I hope the civilians we would go along with in the community will not treat us as enemies. I hope they will embrace us wholeheartedly because we are just humans. We need to be educated about things to avoid being extremists]," said Yaquiyna. (CRG/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)

A three-day peacebuilding training is held and participated by 131 former local insurgents who are given the chance to mingle with the government representatives, and relay their concerns being returnees. (MJP/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)

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Claire Gigje

Information Officer I

Region 10

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