ARMM unveils program to help Abu Sayyaf surrenderers

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The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government launched Tuesday in Basilan its first model program that provides various interventions to former Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members who surrendered to the government, and to their families.

The Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) also seeks to cater to returnees from the lawless group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said PAVE is recognized by the National Peace and Order Council (NPOC), and will officially be part of the national government’s reintegration program dubbed as CLIP or Comprehensive Local Integration Program – a program aimed at achieving permanent and peaceful closure of all armed conflicts with non-state groups.

After being processed by the local government unit (LGU)s and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Hataman said the surrendering Abu Sayyaf members will be endorsed to the ARMM government for the needed psychosocial, economic, educational and spiritual interventions.

“And we will allow them to live as normal and productive citizens in their communities, and they will be the advocates for peace against violent extremism,” he said, adding that the cycle of violence must end.

The program seeks to prevent returnees from going back, provide an opportunity to start anew, encourage more ASGs to surrender, provide an avenue for healing, and increase grassroots support to countering violent extremism.

The returnees will automatically be the recipients of the regional government’s banner programs – ARMM’s Health, Education, Livelihood, Peace and Governance, and Synergy (ARMM-HELPS) and ARMM’s Bangsamoro Regional Inclusive Development with Growth and Equity (ARMM-BRIDGE).

Hataman said PAVE will also be launched in the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

There are 139 ASG returnees in Basilan, 61 in Sulu and 23 in Tawi-Tawi.