At least 40 housing units were turned over Saturday to former Abu Sayyaf fighters in Tipo-Tipo town, Basilan.
The houses were constructed between Barangay Baguindan and Tipo Tipo proper, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group. Several soldiers were killed in the said barangay during heavy skirmishes for the past few years.
But because these bandits decided to surrender, firefight between the military and the Abu Sayyaf started to deescalate for the past 2 years.
Jaimin Jalil, a 20-year-old beneficiary, said he joined the group when he was 13 years old. But in 2016 decided to return to normal life.
"Ayaw na namin sa gulo. Gusto namin na mapayapa ang lugar namin," he said.
Joint Task Force Basilan chief Col. Fernando Reyeg urged them to ask other rebels to return to the folds of the law and avail of the benefits guaranteed to them by the government.
"Ipamalita niyo sa kasamahan niyo, anong natatamasa niyo. Magbigay lang ng pasabi, kung gusto bumaba, sige," he said.
A total of 186 Abu Sayyaf members have surrendered to the military in Basilan since 2016, data showed. But the government only allocated funds for 150 housing units for surrendered rebels with "cleared cases."
Each house has an estimated cost of P320,000, including the water connection and solar light. Each beneficiary is expected to receive an additional P20,000 to sustain their livelihood.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said he believes that the surrendered rebels were victims of social injustice.
"Dapat humingi sila ng pagpapaumanhin sa mga nagawa nila sa pamahalaan. Kahit anung anggulo, dapat tingnan din namin sa gobyerno kung ano ang pagkukulang ng nakaraan," he said.
The ARMM government also handed another batch of housing units to families who were victimized by the bandits and who were left homeless as a result of the armed conflict.
The houses for civilians were built at Upper Cabengbeng, Sumisip.