Butuan cops help gang members get new lease on life

BUTUAN CITY – Hanney Lou Quiamjot virtually grew up on the streets, where he can be seen even in the wee hours of the night with his gang.

“I had no clear direction in life. We stayed on the streets until dawn. Oftentimes we were engaged in riots with other gangs and would end up in jail,” Quiamjot said.

Quiamjot is one of the many former gang members who managed to make a turnaround and became productive individuals under the "Project Gangnam" of the Butuan City Police Office (BCPO).

Under the program, BCPO partners with the local government, national line agencies, and local businesses to provide vocational and livelihood training to former gang members.

BCPO and its partners would then match successful trainees to local employers, or help them start a business of their own.

Quiamjot, now 23, graduated from the program in 2018 and is now a certified welder after completing the Special Training for Employment Program (STEP) of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

He now works as a full-time welder at a local establishment and is thinking about finding work overseas.

“Aside from my regular work, I also receive calls for welding works in our community. I thank the BCPO for the guidance and the opportunity to change my life,” Quiamjot said.

Quiamjot is one of the many former gang members who got a new lease on life under the police-initiated project.

NEW LEASE ON LIFE. Hanney Lou Quiamjot, 23, is among the 20 former gang members who finished the welding course and is now employed under the 'Project Gangnam' of the Butuan City Police Office. Quiamjot says the program has turned his life around. (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)

“We are glad that 20 former gang members have already completed their training on welding with TESDA in December last year. They are now working in different establishments in the city,” said Col. Canilo Fuentes, BCPO chief, in an interview with reporters on Thursday.

Fuentes said 24 more former gang members are starting vocational training with TESDA within the month.

The training is free of charge, and includes daily fares and food, he said, adding: “This is a continuing program of BCPO and we are committed to pursuing this in 2020."

Recently, Fuentes said two new TESDA graduates were hired by the city government to work at its motor pool.

At least 20 graduates are now employed in various businesses in the city since the program started in 2018, he added.

Fuentes said BCPO is set to enter more memoranda of agreement with various business establishments in the city to provide more job opportunities to "Project Gangnam" graduates.
He said they came up with the program with the original intent of keeping the youths away from illegal drugs, in line with the anti-drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"It also aims to provide support to the strengthened campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP) against all forms of criminalities in the region," Fuentes said.

Another gang member, 40-year-old Eugene Cabal, is the eldest of the first batch of graduates.

“There were times I would reflect on what would happen to me if I grow old. When I got married, I decided to leave the streets and my gang. It was time to change my life,” Cabal said.

Ha also urged other gang members to avail of BCPO's program and turn themselves into productive members of their community.

After completing the course, Cabal said he opted to work solo and now receiving welding works from individuals and construction companies.

“Now I can give my family a better future. I thank the BCPO and TESDA for this opportunity,” he added.

Fuentes said he is inspired by the program's success stores and vowed to "continue our anti-criminality, security, peace, and order drives in Butuan City."

"And we also encourage the young people who are members of gangs to join those who decided to leave and avail of our program,” he added. (PNA)


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