Freeman Region

CHR: Farmer now admits he’s ex-rebel; earlier denial drawn by fear

Judy Flores Partlow - The Freeman

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights in Negros Oriental on Wednesday warned militant groups that they will be held accountable if something happened to a rebel returnee who did a flip-flop stance recently, much to the surprise of local government and military officials.

CHR special investigator Jess Cañete was referring to the conflicting statements of Gennie Labrador, a former member of the New People’s Army who had earlier received financial assistance from the provincial government under the Social Integration Program for former rebels.

Labrador was one of the 30 rebel returnees who received cash incentives from the provincial government during the recent declaration of Negros Oriental as conflict manageable and development ready province.

However, days after the declaration rites, Labrador stunned the public, during a press conference by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the Karapatan, by alleging that he was not a former NPA member but was only made to admit as such by government authorities.

The militant groups took this up as they criticized the earlier government declaration as misleading and that the basic social problems, more particularly poverty, have not been addressed by government causing the insurgency movement to persist.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Labrador did a back-flip, this time confirming that he was indeed a former NPA member prior to his surrender, said Cañete.

In an interview with reporters, in the presence of Cañete and provincial Social Welfare and Development Office head Alice Legarde, Labrador said he was under pressure by the militant groups that made him declare he was not a rebel and accuse the military of mislabeling him.

Cañete said he believes Labrador was telling the truth in admitting he was a rebel returnee, and that his surrender and the subsequent entitlement of the financial assistance were thoroughly and properly documented by the provincial SWDO.

Cañete appealed to the militant groups to give peace a chance to prosper in Negros Oriental. “We should not be fault finders and not derail government programs to improve the lives of the people,” he said.

Labrador had recounted to the CHR chief his activities as an armed member of the NPA until his surrender but admitted he was fearful of retaliation from his former comrades in the organization.

But, if in any event Labrador’s previous claim of not being rebel returnee is true, the CHR is ready to subpoena those concerned and have them explain why he was being asked to pass himself off as a former NPA member, Cañete warned.

Cañete said he was inclined to believe Labrador was a former rebel now seeking a new life, based on his interview and interaction with the latter.

If ever Labrador’s life will be under threat, Cañete said he will hold the militant groups responsible. “I will hold them responsible for the life, safety and security of Labrador because, based on his earlier statements, he said he is not afraid of the government authorities but fearful of these (militant) groups.” (FREEMAN)











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