Press Release
December 7, 2023

Bong Go cites need to strengthen and support NTF-ELCAC programs to encourage rebels to not take up arms and rejoin mainstream society

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense, emphasized the critical need to enhance initiatives such as the Balik-Loob Program under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

This effort is directed at motivating insurgents to return to mainstream society, consequently diminishing the instances of internal strife among Filipinos.

"Ako naman po bilang vice chairman ng Committee on National Defense, ang apela ko sa Executive Branch na kailangan po nating ma-strengthen yung mga programa tulad ng Balik-Loob program ng gobyerno para maengganyo po ang mga rebelde na magbalik-loob po sa gobyerno," stated Go in an ambush interview on Thursday, December 7, after aiding residents in Pamplona, Cagayan.

"Ako naman ayoko po yung Pilipino nagpapatayan sa kapwa Pilipino. Kapag may sundalong namamatay, nauulila po ang mga anak. Sobrang sakit po ng aking dibdib," he added.

The senator further addressed the casualties on the other side of the conflict, saying, "Kapag may rebelde naman pong namamatay, may mga anak rin po 'yan, Pilipino rin po ang mga 'yan, nasasaktan rin po tayo. Nauulila po ang kanilang pamilya."

Go argued that by bolstering the NTF-ELCAC, development in affected areas can be accelerated, thereby reducing poverty and diminishing the influence of rebel groups.

"Alam n'yo nae-encourage ang mga lugar no'n, mga barangay, mga town, doon sa NTF-ELCAC dahil nagkakaroon po ng development sa kanilang lugar. Kapag may development po, nababawasan po ang kahirapan. So nawawala po ang impluwensya ng mga rebelde," he explained.

Go emphasized that poverty is a primary factor in the occurrence of rebellion.

"Kahirapan po ang parating nagiging rason dito. Kaya tulungan po natin ang mga kababayan nating mahihirap," he said, calling for targeted support to impoverished communities.

By providing resources and opportunities to these areas, the senator believes it is possible to alleviate the factors that drive individuals towards rebellion.

The Balik-Loob Program, officially known as the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), is a key initiative of the Philippine government. Managed by Task Force Balik-Loob (TFBL), the program commends the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its role in positively transforming the lives of former rebels.

Created by Administrative Order No. 10 in 2018, during the time of former president Rodrigo Duterte, the TFBL serves as the central coordinating body for the government's reintegration efforts for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), including their immediate families.

A standout feature of the Balik-Loob Program is the Balik-Loob Lending Program, a loan facility provided by LandBank. This lending program is one of the benefits of E-CLIP, aimed at helping former rebels establish or expand businesses, thereby facilitating their successful reintegration into civilian life.

Aside from poverty, the senator emphasized that perceived government neglect is a reason for the insurgency. In this regard, Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, is at the forefront of bringing essential government medical and healthcare services and programs closer to the people.

Among his flagship advocacies is the Malasakit Centers program, which aims to bring down to the lowest amount possible the hospital bills of indigent patients.

He principally authored Republic Act 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which was signed into law by Duterte and institutionalized the program. There are now 159 operational Malasakit Centers nationwide with around ten million Filipinos already having benefitted from the program, according to a Department of Health (DOH) report.

With the help of his fellow lawmakers, local government units, and the DOH, Go also actively pushed for the funding of more than six hundred Super Health Centers nationwide under the 2022 and 2023 national budgets, ensuring that basic healthcare services of the government are made more available even in far-flung communities.

He was also the principal sponsor and one of the authors of a Senate measure that eventually became the Regional Specialty Centers Act, signed into law this year, and which mandates the establishment of such centers in DOH hospitals to bring specialized medical care even to patients outside of Metro Manila and other big cities.

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