By Javier J Ismael /Manila Times
Parents of students who went missing accused Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago of prodding their children to join the New People’s Army (NPA).
In yesterday’s public hearing by the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee on the missing minors who are allegedly recruited by leftist groups, parents pointed to Elago as the “link” of their children to the communist rebels.
A picture of the missing children with Elago was presented before the committee headed by Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
One of the parents, Relissa Lucena, turned emotional when she recalled how her daughter disappeared. She reported her daughter’s disappearance to authorities but later learned that her daughter, Alicia, had joined Anakbayan. Alicia, in her Facebook post, denied being coerced to join Anakbayan.
“I left home because I have been under house arrest for more than a month. That was so traumatic, it happened at the hands of my parent. I am just here and I have not returned home for personal reasons,” she said.
“We were not brainwashed. We joined the organisation because we understand the country’s situation and how majority of the people suffer because of a corrupt government. I joined and decided to devote my time because I want a meaningful change,” she added.
Elago parried the accusations, saying political participation is not illegal and is not exclusive to adults.
“The youth have a right to speak their minds about their rights and welfare. Activism is not a crime. Activism and dissent are part of our basic rights as citizens,” she said.
Four former activists-turned-NPA rebels also attended the hearing and recounted how they were exploited and deceived by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA.
They claimed that front organisations of the CPP-NPA take advantage of the curiosity, anger and weaknesses of young students. They said students were enticed to join the NPA and were later trained and transformed into armed fighters.
One of the former rebels was alias “Allem,” who admitted knowing at least two of the missing students being sought by their parents.
“I know them, I know their children…I feel that I am also responsible for them,” she said.
Allem said she was 16 when recruited by the League of Filipino Students (LFS) at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in 2014.
Allem said the heavy presence of militant groups at PUP and her mother’s status as a contractual worker for more than 10 years were among the factors why she joined LFS.
“Immediately, I was exposed to their orientation — that only an armed revolution is the solution to our problem, that we need to wage war against the state,” she said.
“I was awed that there are these people…and it was an adventure for me as a 16-year-old girl to join rallies unmindful of the danger,” she added.
Allem said she was brought to Bukidnon via the “Manilakbayan” or the march of peasant groups from the provinces to Manila to air their concerns through protest rallies.
She found herself within the ranks of NPA.
Allem was an active member of the NPA from 2017-2018, and it was during this time that she met her partner, who was a regular Red fighter.
“We decided to leave the mountains. When I got pregnant, we asked help from them (NPA) but we did not get any. A few months later, our child got sick and I again sought assistance but was rejected,” she recounted.
Allem said it was at this point that she and her partner surrendered to authorities.
Nancy Dologuin, a triathlete, said she voluntarily joined Gabriela and LFS in 2006 when she was a student at the Mindanao State University. She eventually ended up carrying an M16 rifle fighting government troops in Bukidnon.
“I was a very proud member of Kabataan Makabayan and was agitated further to go to the mountains in 2009,” said Dologuin. “It came to a point that I was willing to become a suicide bomber to kill GMA (former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo).”
Dologuin said she eventually realised her mistake.
“Only the commander was allowed to have cellular phone…and they don’t believe in God…they stole food from poor people,” she said. The realisation led her to surrender to the government.
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