Simple Wants of a Rebel Returnee

Dir. Saliot with Mayor Arnado, Dir. Quirog, MAO Rico and the MILF Commanders

I attended an activity in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. This was graced by Hon. Secretary Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Dir. Asterio Saliot of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). This activity was attended by MILF Rebel Returnees who have given up their arms to go back to their farms. Sixty three (63) of these returnees under four Commanders are presently undergoing a season-long training on agricultural production technologies sponsored by the Agricultural Training Institute in collaboration with the Local Government of Kauswagan and the 15th IB Philippine Army. The training which is a combination of technical and hands-on is being conducted by the Doña Laureana Rosales School for Practical Agriculture. This is an LGU-owned practical school for farmers that is being assisted by the Asisi Development Foundation and the Agricultural Training Institute.
Going back to the activity, I was struck by what one commander asked from the Secretary. It was his moment to talk infront of a gathering of powerful personalities especially from the government sector. The commander was asked to talk about his impressions on the “From Arms to Farm Program”. I was wondering if he will ask for something from the personalities in the Presidential table headed by Secretary Alcala, Dir. Saliot with Gov. Khalid Dimaporo, Mayor Rommel Arnado and a Regional Directors from various agencies . True enough, at the end of his talk, he did ask for something from Secretary Alcala. He was sweating hard and was in fact having a hard time expressing his request. His fellow returnees coached from the sidelines saying the word “scholarship”. Then he sheepishly said the word Scholarship and added, “ay madali lang pala.” He asked that the Honorable Secretary extend educational assistance for their children. I was so proud of them because they could have asked for more, but they didn’t. They only asked for scholarship which the Secretary also directed ATI to address their concerns. ATI immediately committed to send 40 children to ladderized agricultural trainings accredited by TESDA. This is to ensure that the efforts being poured by the Department of Agriculture to the farms of the Rebel Returnees be sustained even by the younger generations. The mood for the whole activity was very positive. It is heartening to see the military, the government officials and employees and the rebel returnees interacting freely and discussing agricultural concerns- from problems in production to marketing. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the partnership between all these stakeholders would continue so that true peace will really be attained for these areas in Lanao del Norte.