IBAJAY, Aklan – “I got this from a raid on our house,” Ivan Siosan said as he pointed to a scar that crosses from his lower lip to his chin.
Narrating the incident, Siosan said his former comrades were armed and were thus natural targets for the military. “Nakasama kami sa na-raid ng Army. Hindi ‘to labanan na kami nag-initiate kung hindi kami ‘yong ni-raid sa bahay (We got caught in the Army raid. We didn’t initiate the encounter. We were the ones raided in the safehouse),” he said.
Siosan said he started fighting for social justice in 1983 as part of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Oriental. Thirteen years later, he moved to the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletariat Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG), the rejectionist group of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in the Visayas region.
It was with this group that he saw the government start peace negotiations. Now 50 years old and sporting a prominent scar on his face, Siosan said the peace process eventually helped him live a normal life — a far cry from his life as a rebel.
Since a peace agreement was signed with the government in 2000, he has transitioned from a rebel into a pioneer businessman in the community. The RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG itself has also been transformed and is now called the Kapatiran para sa Progresibong Panlipunan, Inc.
“Galing kami sa wala. Maganda… na legal ka na. Alam na namin kung paano kumita ng legal, at nakikita nila na ganito na kami (We used to have nothing. It’s good that we are now legal. We now know how to earn a livelihood legally, and everyone sees it),” he said.
A new life
Under the 2000 Peace Agreement, former members of the RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG will be transitioned back to the communities. In preparation for this reintegration, local government units and their implementing partners will conduct feasibility studies to determine what forms of livelihood best fit their communities.
Another milestone is coming up in September as the Clarificatory Implementing Document (CID) of the 2000 Peace Agreement is expected to be signed. Its signing will lay down the mechanisms for the disposition of firearms, among others.
Siosan and his colleagues started their transitional journey in 2014 when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under its National Greening Program awarded them 50 hectares of land that they would use to plant fruit and vegetables.
This contract continued in 2015, and in 2016 they were awarded another 160 hectares of land which allowed them to build capital so they could buy a vehicle for transportation and investment purposes.
In 2017 they received 75 hectares more. It was also in this year that Siosan and his colleagues opened the Kandingan Restobar along the national highway, a restaurant and catering service where members of the Kapatiran and their families were employed as staff members.
“Para kaming kahoy na hinugot sa lupa at tinaniman ng bago. Dahil dito, meron kaming naipu-pundar para sa pamilya namin (We were like trees that were pulled out of the ground so that new ones could be planted. These projects gave us the chance to save up for our families),” Siosan said.