MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana condemned the alleged recruitment of minors by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its militant arm the New People's Army, and its political branch the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Lorenzana said the communist rebel group "does not care for the lives of children, since they will use anyone to forward their selfish agenda," adding that several former rebels who have availed of a social reintegration program attested to having fought the government since they were 14 or 15.
"That is why the defense and military establishments are very vocal against the deceptive recruitment of young Filipinos in our schools and other institutions, and strongly condemn the abhorrent practice of using children in armed conflict," Lorenzana said in a statement on Thursday, August 8.
Last week, August 1, the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) filed kidnapping, child abuse, and human trafficking charges at the Department of Justice against leaders and members of the leftist group Anakbayan, after a 17-year-old allegedly went missing after the group recruited her.
The senior high school student from Far Eastern University first left home in February and again in July, her mother Relissa Lucena told an investigation by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs on Wednesday, August 7.
The PNP-CIDG pressed charges against Anakbayan even after the teen denied in a Facebook post that she was missing or kidnapped.
Senators who listened to accounts from Lucena and 4 other parents of minors allegedly recruited by Anakbayan called for increased police presence at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, where recruitment of students by leftist groups is said to be rife.
Lorenzana hit organizations he called a "legal front" of the communist insurgency for luring citizens to join them and "eventually, the armed movement."
President Rodrigo Duterte rescinded peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF after a few failed attempts at negotiations early into his term.
The government is now pursuing "localized peace talks" with communist factions facilitated by provincial, municipal, or even barangay governments.
Running 50 years, the CPP-NPA-NDF rebellion is one of the longest ongoing insurgencies in the world.
"While we know for a fact the growing desperation of the CPP-NPA-NDF as to their so-called 'forces' and influence tremendously diminish, their deceptive recruitment of minors is nothing new since they have been doing this for decades," Lorenzana said. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.