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Press Release - For Lasting Peace: Robin Pushes Budget for Livelihood 14,000 MILF Returnees

Sen. Robinhood "Robin" C. Padilla on Wednesday prodded the government to explore funds for the livelihood of rebel returnees, including 14,000 from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to ensure the gains of the government's peace efforts will not be in vain.

Padilla said this is important to finally break the vicious cycle where armed conflict would end but would threaten again, because the families of surrenderees are still mired in poverty.

"Kasi po ang nangyayari sa aking obserbasyon, lumalahok ang nakatatandang myembro ng mga rebelde, sila ay pumapasok uli sa gobyerno, nanumbalik pero tulad ng nangyari sa Marawi siege, ang kanilang anak at apo ay di nila nakumbinsi, ito humawak ng armas. Ganoon din sa Abu Sayyaf Group. Ang Abu Sayyaf Group, ay yan ay mga apo, anak ng mga Moro National Liberation Front (From my observation, rebels agree to peace agreements but their children and grandchildren take up arms due to poverty. This is the case with the Marawi Siege. This is the case of the Abu Sayyaf, whose members are descendants of the MNLF)," he said in his interpellation of the 2024 budget of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).

"Hangga't meron tayong tinatawag na mga kaaway mismo dito sa loob ng ating bansa, napakaimposible na magkaroon tayo ng pag-unlad (So long as we have enemies from within our own country, progress is impossible)," he added.

Padilla stressed the national government must work with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to address this.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the sponsor of the OPAPRU's proposed 2024 budget, noted each MILF returnee is to get roughly P1 million including P100,000 cash assistance and non-cash aid such as livelihood program and socio-economic assistance including livelihood assistance and skills training.

For 2024, he said some 14,000 MILF combatants are due to receive such aid - but there is only P899.314 million in the proposed 2024 budget - or less than 10 percent of the amount needed - for this purpose.

This saddened Padilla, who said the normalization process would be threatened again.

"Pagka ang mga combatants hindi natin nabigyan ng pansin,