Twenty-one, including 15 minors, out of the 55 recently arrested alleged members of various progressive groups are actually out for deployment as fighters of the communist group New People’s Army (NPA).
Thus, said Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil military operations and spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Parlade lashed out at the members of the so-called Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives — which he brands as the Kamatayan bloc — for taking the cudgels for those arrested by claiming they were members of mere progressive groups.
He particularly hit at Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro.
The official said parents of the 15 “rescued” minors thought that they were attending drama and dance practices but were actually being indoctrinated and were ready for deployment by the NPA in Negros.
“That’s the story of the minors… They were already set for tours of duty if they were not rescued,” Parlade told Daily Tribune.
He said 21 of the 55 arrested during separate raids against four underground safehouses in three barangays in Bacolod and Escalante last week were supposed to have their tours of duty with the NPA.
“As representative of women, mothers included therefore, have we ever heard Representative Brosas complain why there were even minors in the group? Six of them were aged 12 to 14 and five were aged 15,” Parlade said.
Living via aliases
“Many by the way did not give their true names because they were given aliases. What for? So, tell me Representative Brosas? As a mother, why didn’t you raise this alarming issue about your CPP-NPA’s child exploitation?” he added.
Parlade cited an admission by arrested NPA leader and ranking Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) member Vic Ladlad that since 2015, the CPP-NPA had recruited a total of 8,635 children as combatants.
Meanwhile, the military’s Joint Task Force-Negros, headed by Brig. Gen. Eric Vinoya, stood firm that the places raided last 31 October were “underground houses of the CPP-NPA” and not offices as claimed by the Makabayan bloc.
“They’re quick to claim that those are legal offices, but how come they’re not even registered in the host barangay? And, why is that they don’t have barangay or office permits?” Vinoya asked.
“The alleged offices also do not have the usual signage like most business establishments and NGO offices usually have. Their addresses cannot also be found in directories and online searches.
Obviously, they are hiding their true identity,” he added.
Vinoya said the “underground houses” actually serve as hiding place for NPA firearms and wounded rebels.
More than 20 firearms, including KG sub-machine guns, were recovered during the raids, while several identified ranking NPA local leaders were among those arrested.
In Samar, a 17-year-old boy, who was thought to be working in Manila, had a tearful reunion with his parents after he was presented by the military to the media as a captured child warrior.
The boy, identified only as alias “Louie,” was captured during an encounter between the military and NPA in the evening of 3 November in Barangay Lim-ao, Hinabangan town.
Col. Camilo Ligayo, commander of the 801st Infantry Brigade, said the boy was seen raising his hands in a gesture of surrender with an M-16 rifle in his hands after a 10-minute gunfire.
“He looked dazed and perplexed on what to do. He was abandoned by his fellow rebels,” Ligayo said. “Our men saw him raising his hands as he was approaching our soldiers.”
The officer said the military considers the minor combatant as a “rescued child involved in armed conflict.”
He said the child immediately underwent a medical check-up and will be turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development to undergo rehabilitation.
Ligayo said the boy gave a few information regarding his background, including his original address prompting the military to look for his parents. The soldiers found his parents in Purok 1, Barangay Nabong in the town of Pinabacdao.
It was discovered that they boy left their house in June this year, telling his parents that he would be going to Manila to look for a job.
His mother was surprised when she was told of what happened to her son.
When brought to the media briefing after the military presented “Louie,” the mother ran to hug his son crying as it was their first time to meet after the boy left their house.
Ligayo challenged the NPA to stop recruiting minors to join the rebel group as it violates international agreements like the Geneva Convention and International Convention on the Rights of the Children.
“We condemn the recruitment of minors being done by the communist terrorist group,” Ligayo said.
Surveillance ops not unusual
Malacañang yesterday said there was nothing wrong in conducting surveillance operations against perceived enemies of the state if there was enough evidence to prove that they are engaged in illegal activities.
Chief Legal Counsel and presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the remark after militant groups such as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and Kabataan partylist claimed of crackdowns on their offices from state forces.
“The government policy is always to investigate complaints on criminal activities and if they have evidence, then they will take action,” Panelo told reporters.
The Palace official said there is nothing wrong in tagging the offices if the evidence shows that they have been engaged in criminal activities.
“That’s supposed to be the duty of the police security, if they have basis for surveillance,” Panelo said.
On Tuesday, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar slammed what he calls the baseless allegations and cries of harassment from Karapatan following the raid that took place in Bacolod last week.
The bloodless operation, it was recalled, led to the arrest of over 60 members of the NPA.
Andanar said despite claims by some, the raid was conducted in a lawful, safe, quick and precise manner, as a result of the close coordination of the agencies in the NTF-ELCAC.
With Elmer Recuerdo and Francis T. Wakefield