The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) refutes the claim of former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) are not recruiting minors to fight against the national government.
“Satur Ocampo’s denial of the occurrence of illegal recruitment of minors by the CPP/NPA/NDF is a blatant lie. In fact it has been going on for decades," says DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
According to data from the Philippine National Police (PNP), five cases have been filed this year against the CPP/NPA/NDF for violating the Child Abuse Law and child trafficking. Five similar cases were filed in court in 2017, while three were filed in 2016.
“The CPP/NPA/NDF are poisoning the minds of our children to take up arms against the government. They teach the innocent how to use a gun, how to fight in armed combat, how to gain people’s sympathy, to sing a different version of the national anthem and to join rallies calling for the overthrow of government,” says Año.
"Satur Ocampo and company have intensified their recruitment of children because it is easier to poison young minds and because they need to fill up the ranks of the NPA which has been decimated by the growing number of rebel surrenders," he added.
In July this year, five minors from the Manobo tribe in Bukidnon surrendered in Northern Luzon due to harsh living conditions of NPA fighters.
A 15-year old NPA combatant was killed during a clash between government troops and communist terrorist rebels in Sitio Bayongon, Barangay Astorga in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur on April 21, 2018.
Two boys and one girl, both NPA regulars, were killed in an encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the NPA in Compostela Valley on July 12 last year.
Año also cited the surrender of an 11-year-old NPA combatant to the Philippine Army in Barangay Camansa, Asuncion town in Davao del Norte in 2015. Two child warriors, along with four women, also said they have suffered in the jungles of Zamboanga del Sur before they surrendered to the Philippine Army.
In May 2018, the United Nations (UN) reported to have verified the recruitment and use of 30 children by armed groups, six of which have been linked with the NPA.
"The evidence against CPP/NPA/NDF recruitment of young children is incontrovertible. In fact, it has been reported in the media -- though sparingly. Despite being against local and international law, the communists terrorists continue to hypnotize our children because it is easy to recruit the innocent," he said.
The DILG chief likewise defended the PNP in its decision to arrest Ocampo, Castro and others in Davao Del Norte.
“We have received the reports of former Salugpongan students and teachers claiming that the school has been indoctrinating them against the government and forcing them to join rallies,” says Año.
In affidavits written by former students and volunteer teachers of the Salugpongan Learning Center in Talaingod, they claimed that the school has been training students as young as kindergartners on the use firearms.
They also claimed that minors were being brought into NPA encampments and were prohibited from communicating with their parents while they were studying in Salugpongan.
Incidents of sexual abuse of children were also reported in the affidavits.
Last week, Ocampo, ACT Party-list Rep. France Castro and several others were arrested at a military checkpoint in Talaingod Municipality for kidnapping and illegally transporting 14 minors without parental consent.
LCEs could be game changers in ending insurgency
The DILG thus encourages all local government units (LGUs) to openly and actively lead the fight against the enemies of the state.
According to Año, the vast political power and influence of the LCEs on their constituents could be the “game changers” in ending insurgency in the country.
“With this very strong and effective initiative of the national government, there is no room for local chief executives to be quiet and, worse yet, to allow themselves to be used by state enemies,” he says.