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Senate probe into missing minors not meant to suppress student activism – ‘Bato’

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By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa on Wednesday took a swipe at leftist groups which alleged that the Senate investigation into the case of missing minors was an attempt to suppress student activism.

Senator Roland Bato Dela Rosa  (ALI VICOY/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Roland Bato Dela Rosa (ALI VICOY/ MANILA BULLETIN)

At the second hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs which he chairs, Dela Rosa said the probe was aimed at protecting the country’s most basic unit of the society, which is the family.

“We would like to address the issue that this hearing is meant to suppress student activism. To say that is a mockery to the parents who willingly exposed themselves publicly, risking public scrutiny of their personal lives and probably putting into question their parenting,” Dela Rosa said during the hearing.

Dela Rosa, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, also denied that the hearing was meant to harass critics of the administration, but explained that it was to provide a venue to the parents of these students who chose to believe wrong ideologies.

“We are not here because the groups who have allegedly recruited their children are critics of administration,” Dela Rosa also said.

“We are here voluntarily because their children are being coddled by these organizations and they (parents) have grown desperate because their pleas have not been heeded by the said groups,” he added.

“As a senator of the Republic, and as a parent myself, I am convinced that I am called upon to protect the Filipino family as the basic social institution and to ensure that this institution remains intact,” he said.

Ex-rebels confirm recruitment

During Wednesday probe, at least four former rebels testified before the committee that, indeed, students from various state universities and colleges (SUCs) are being recruited to join Communist groups, preying on their vulnerability to social injustices and their questions about the government.

Among them was 21-year old Allem, who wore a hoodie and sunglasses to cover her face, and who testified that she was a 16 year old student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) when she was recruited by the League of Filipino Students (LFS) in 2014.

Allem said she got interested to join the group when the LFS raised the issue regarding contractualization since her mother was a contractual employee. She eventually became an activist for three years before she decided to join the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and stayed at one of their units in Mindanao October 2017.

She stayed three months in Bukidnon, then transferred to Compostela Valley for another three months.

Prior to joining the LFS, Allem recalled that one of the organizers told her that LFS was not supporting the NPA.

Allem said she decided to leave the group in April 2018 with another member who became her husband after she became pregnant.

According to her, the organization did not help her when she sought financial assistance for their child who got sick. Allem said the rebel group did not even consider the five years her husband spent killing people upon the orders of their superiors.

“Porke’t wala na kaming pakinabang sa kanila, tinalikuran nila kami. Hindi ko naisip na sumuko dahil nakatanim sa utak ko na to-torturin kayo, yun sinabi nila eh. Pero nung nakapag desisyon na kami na susuko sa military, hindi naman sila nagging marahas. Lahat ng kelangan namin, sinubukan nilang tulungan kami (Because we’re no longer of use, they turned their backs on us. I didn’t think of surrendering to government troops that time because we were told that we will be tortured. But when we finally decided to surrender to the military, they did not harass us. They tried to provide us with everything we needed),” an emotional Allem told the committee.

Allem, who was accompanied by State Solicitor Marlon Bosantog, said she decided to decided to testify before the Senate committee because she felt responsible for the children of the parents who testified before the hearing.

“Kilala ko mga anak nila. Kaya pakiramdam ko isa ako sa mga responsable (I know their children. That’s why I feel I am equally responsible),” Allem said.

“Nag-desisyon ako magsalita dito para makarating dun sa ibang mga kasamahan na maawa kayo sa mga magulang na gusto lang kasama ‘yung anak nila. ‘Wag mong ipagdamot ‘yun. Ngayon ko naiintindihan ang nanay ko, naiintindihan ko ang sakripisyo ng ina sa pagpapalaki ng anak kasi nanay na ako  (I decided to speak out so it may reach my other comrades please take pity on these parents who just want to have their children with them. Don’t be selfish. I understand my mother now, I understand a mother’s sacrifice in raising their child because I am not a mother),” said Allem, when she made  her emotional appeal.

Another former leftist member, Alvin Turero, said poor students like him join leftist groups because they are promised scholarships at the University of the Philippines (UP) and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) if they join rallies.

“Bilang organizer ng Kabataan Party, makukuha namin based po dun sa kahirapan upang mapaaral sila sa UP o PUP. Nasusundot po namin sila doon (As an organizer of Kabataan Partylist, we are able to convince them they can study in UP or PUP. We convince them with that),” he said.

But Turero said the promise of scholarships never materialized. He tried to change his ways and went back to his hometown in Quezon, but still got involved with other leftist members and was convinced to join their armed struggle.

However, during skirmishes with the army, Turero noted that they were often abandoned. “Iniwanan po kami sa labanan. Akala ko ba bato ang aking sinasandalan pero bakit sa ganitong klase ng labanan ay ako’y tinalikuran? (They leave us in the battle. I thought I am leaning against a stone, but why did they turn their backs on me in this kind of fight?),” Turero lamented.

Turero said he regretted joining the leftist group, and that when he decided to surrender to the military, he tried to convince his girlfriend, who was also part of the armed struggle, to also surrender to the government. Sadly, Turero said, his girlfriend died during an encounter.

“Ang gusto ko lang naman po bumuti ang buhay ko. Pero, sinamantala naman po ito ng CPP. Ni-recruit nila ako hanggang sa nangre-recruit na rin ako, (I just wanted my life to be better. But the CPP took advantage of me. They recruited me, until I can also recruit),” he said.

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