By Jan Carlo Anolin
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) backed the proposal of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to restore the law-making subversion a criminal offense.
Earlier, Año, a former AFP chief of staff, stressed that this should be taken into consideration following reports disclosing that 500 to 1,000 youths were recruited annually by communist rebel groups.
“Dahil nga po [ito] sa nakikita natin na patuloy na pag-re-recruit ng mga menor de edad buhat sa mga eskwelahan na mga grupo na may leaning sa communism, sa mga students pa po,” Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said in a media briefing Wednesday.
The army official said the process of recruitment, which was “seemingly harmless” at first undergoes a process – starting from lectures, and film viewing, to question and answers – until recruiters assess who among them possess leadership and communication skills and the conviction to engage in rallies.
“Nadi-diskubre natin dahil sa mga armadong enkwentro na dating estudyante sapagkat nilisan na nila ang mga classrooms at patuloy na namundok,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo also recalled the slain students from the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila and Los Baños who allegedly joined the NPA. The two separate clashes transpired in Laguna on February this year and in Batangas last November 2017.
He said communism, in its pure sense, is not a crime. But the context becomes “different” once applied in the Philippines.
“Kung ikaw ay magpapayahag ng iyong damdamin, magpapayahag ng iyong paniniwala, sasama sa mga grupo na nagpapahayag ng paniniwala ayon sa iyong sariling pag-aaral at kaisipan, there is no crime. We subscribe to it as part of every individual’s freedom of expression and of assembly,” Arevalo said.
But once these groups start to recruit and teach people to fight the government through violent means and overthrow it, then it becomes a crime, Arevalo explained.
The communist rebels were also considered as terrorist groups abroad such as the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, among others, because of the use of arms and violence in overthrowing the government, Arevalo added.
The AFP spokesperson, however, assured that proposal, should it be implemented, will not be abused because the current government and the AFP are “professionals”, “matured”, and an organization that is “known to adhere human rights”.
With this alarming incidents, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) chief has also batted for the amendment and strengthening of the law against terrorism.
Based on intelligence reports, Año also said the indoctrinated youths are trained to be fighters or made as militant student leaders in their respective schools.
Año noted that the Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act has been rendered useless and has not been used against terrorism since it also punished honest mistakes of law enforcers with stiff fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years.
The anti-subversion law or RA 1700 was passed in June 1957 during the presidency of Carlos P. Garcia. During the martial law years, RA 1700 was expanded through Presidential Decree 885 in 1976 and PD 1835 in 1981.
Those decrees made it a subversive criminal act to be connected, attend a meeting or take part of any group whose aim is to overthrow the government.
Former President Fidel Ramos in September 1992 shelved the law that made subversion a criminal offense. RA 7636 also legalized the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) amid peace talks with the rebels. (with reports from Chito Chavez)