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From fighting to farming

By Teng L. Datu
Cotabato City Bureau Chief

Sumisip, Basilan — Wiril Muril joined the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group when he was still 21 years old.

A resident of Barangay Baywas in Sumisip, Basilan, Muril said he had to join the group to get the much needed support because his family was involved in a rido (clan war).

Walang training sa amin, kapag may baril ka, pasok ka na,” he said.

He recalled being part of kidnap-for-ransom operations, which made him realize that it was not the jihad that he wanted to be part of.

Ang jihad sa Islam, maganda. Noong nakita ko na may kidnapping, may harassment ng community, pumapatay ng civilian, hindi ko na nakikita ang jihad,” he said.

For him, jihad was when a person does something good for oneself, family, and the community.

But what stopped him from leaving the group was the fear of being in the hands of the government.

Akala ko wala na talaga akong tsansa na makapagbagong buhay,” he said.

When he heard about government’s reformation program for members of rebel groups, he and 83 of his comrades considered surrendering.

Hindi ko naisip na matakot dahil malinaw ang batas ng gobyerno na kapag nagbalik-loob ka sa kanila, bibigyan ka ng tsansa na maayos,” he added.

In July 2017, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) initiated a series of psychosocial interventions to help the returnees start a new life.

Muril, now 27, returned to farming. He earlier received a processing machine for cassava from the Armm government. This helps him earn a living for his wife and seven children.

During the Armm People’s Day in Sumisip recently, the regional government distributed sacks of rice and other essential goods for the returnees. The Armm government also promised to build core shelters, complete with solar panels, and water connection, for them.

Muril now enjoys his life as a returnee.

May magandang kalsada, tubig, maayos na bahay. Yung nagigising ka ng alas sais, at nakikita mong nandyan ang kalsada, nandyan ang tubig, at hindi ka natatakot,” he said.

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