By Mario Casayuran
A student and former supporter of the National People’s Army (NPA) thought the NPA was a solid rock to lean on for support. It turned out to be a mound of clay.
During a public hearing by the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee chaired by Senator Ronald Dela Rosa Wednesday, Alvin Turero expressed his regret in joining the leftist group as he realized he was being made a cannon fodder.
During skirmishes with the Philippine Army (PA), Turero noted that they were often abandoned.
“Ininiwanan po kami sa labanan. Akala ko ba bato ang aking sinasandalan pero bakit sa ganitong klase ng labanan ay ako’y tinalikuran (Were often left to fend for ourselves during skirmishes. I thought we were leaning on solid rock but why do they turn their backs on us?),’’ he asked.
Poor students, Turero said join leftist groups because they were 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 Party, we were able to recruit poor students to the movement by promising that they would be sent to either UP or PUP to study),” he said.
“Ang gusto ko lang naman po bumuti ang buhay ko. Pero, sinamantala naman po ito ng CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines). Ni-recruit nila ako hanggang sa nangre-recruit na rin ako (All I wanted was to improve my life. But the CPP took advantage of this. The CPP was able to recruit me because I believed in their promises and was able to recruit others using the same strategy),” he said.
During the hearing, neophyte Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed concerns over the students’ welfare as recruitment efforts of leftist groups put lives in danger.
He sought answers over the two “missing” students allegedly recruited by leftist groups during the public hearing by Dela Rosa’s committee and the Senate national defense committee chaired by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson.
Go sits as vice chairman of both committees. Dela Rosa opened the session by discussing the cases of the deaths of student activists and emphasizing the nature of organizations they were members of, such as Anakbayan, LFS, Gabriela Youth and Kabataan Party-list.
Realities on the ground
In last week’s Senate hearing, parents of five senior high school students from various universities lamented that their children have gone missing to join leftist groups, such as Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), and Kabataan Party-list.
One of the parents, Relissa Lucena, said that she enrolled her daughter at a private university precisely to keep her away from leftist groups. However, on the first week of classes, she was told by her daughter that she was already a member of Anakbayan and would attend rallies.
Go recounted his experience with President Rodrigo Duterte, then Davao City mayor, on the rescue of hostages from the lair of communists in the mountains.
“Around fifty times na kami umakyat ni Pangulong Duterte para kumuha ng sundalo o pulis na naging hostage o bihag ng mga makakaliwang grupo (Then Mayor Duterte and I have gone to the mountains about 50 times to negotiate for the release of soldiers and policemen held hostage by leftists elements),” Go shared during the hearing. Go also noted that some of the student protesters who usually hold rallies in the streets are the same ones who go up the mountains, neglecting their studies and putting their lives in danger.
“‘Yung mga nakikita ko nagra-rally sa daan, sila rin yung nasa bundok. ‘Wag tayo magkunwari (Those I see joining rallies are the same people who go up the mountains),” Go said. “Base lang po sa aking experience, alam naman natin na halos lahat ng nasa taas na sinasabi niyo nasa eskwelahan, kadalasan aktibista at nasa daan nagra-rally (Based on my experience, almost those who are in the mountains whom you say are in school most often are activists who join street rallies),” he added.
One of the former rebels present in the hearing, Agnes Reano was asked by Lacson what her life was like after she was recruited and became a fulltime member of the NPA. Reano said: “Noong ma-recruit po ako nung first year, estudyante po ako by day, NPA by night (In my first year as an NPA recruit, I was a student by day, NPA by night).”