MANILA — Four former rebels on Wednesday confirmed before the Senate that students are being recruited from various schools nationwide to join the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs headed by Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the former rebels also shed light into the recruitment methods employed by the communist group to “convince” unsuspecting youth, as well as the “legal fronts” being used in the recruitment process.
Among them was Agnes Reano who was recruited by the Alliance of Students Against Tuition Fee Increase in the early 1980s at the Ateneo de Naga University when she was just 13 years old.
In the course of her testimony, she recalled how she got involved with the NPA.
She said she was in college at an early age due to an accelerated high school course, and joined the organization to protest tuition increases.
At first, she said she did not know that she was being recruited into the NPA.
“Pinapahiram ako ng libro, mahilig ako magbasa. Unang pinahiram yung ‘The Prince’ ni Niccolo Machiavelli (They lent me books; I enjoyed reading. The first they lent me was ‘The Prince’ by Niccolo Machiavelli),” Reano said.
She was soon engaged in deep “educational discussions with some of her friends in the organization on imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.
Sometime in May 2013, Reano was brought to Barangay Fatima, Malaybalay, Bukidnon with other student leaders to formally launch the League of Filipino Students (LFS) with Lean Alejandro.
She said it was during her second year in college that she was integrated into the NPA.
“During my second semester in second-year college, I took oath as ‘kandidatong kasapi.’ Automatically I became part of the armed wing,” Reano told the Senate panel.
It was also that time that she became a recruiter herself.
Later a recruiter
“I am already integrated but still in university…. Student by day, NPA by night. My shield is as member of the legal front, the Alliance of Students Against Tuition Fee Increase,” she said.
“My mother does not know anything about this,” Reano added.
Besides recruiting students, she said that among her first “mission” was to transport bullets, which were strapped in her waist with duct tape, from Naga to Legazpi where armed members collected them.
A week after graduation, Reano totally joined the NPA and later became a political officer of the Bicol Regional Party Committee led by Sotero Llamas.
“Kung tatanungn nyo ako pag may recruitment sa school, definitely meron. Kami po ang konkretong batayan, buhay na ebidensiya. Na-recruit ako, naging recruiter ako (If you ask me if there is recruitment in the schools, definitely, there is. We are the concrete basis, the living evidence. I was recruited, I became a recruiter),” she told the lawmakers.
However, Reano said she does not know any more the whereabouts of her recruits except for two individuals.
One is still alive but out of the country, while the other died shortly after being recruited.
“May isa po akong na-recruit, si Geneve Ramos, a nursing student from Phase 8 Bagong Silang, Caloocan City. Ako ang nagpasumpa, dinala ko sa Bicol July 1989. January 1990 patay sa encounter (I recruited Geneve Ramos…I administered the oath to her and brought her to Bicol July 1989. January 1990, she was killed in an encounter),” Reano recalled.
Another former rebel, Nancy Dologuin, said she was a student-athlete at the Mindanao State University when she was recruited by the Gabriela chapter in the LFS.
She said she was already engaged in “educational discussions” in her first semester in college.
Dologuin, however, admitted that she willingly joined the organization because of her traumatic experience when a family member tried to rape her.
“Tiyempo lumapit itong LFS na nagpapakilalang Gabriela. Nanumpa rin ako sa Kabataang Makabayan (That time, I was approached by someone from the LFS who introduced as Gabriela. I took an oath to be part of Kabataang Makabayan). In May 2009, I joined the NPA and went to Bukidnon — three years in the legal front and eight months in the mountains,” she said.
Dologuin said she decided to leave the organization after seeing the same injustices she was trying to correct.
“Sa taas bawal ang cellphone, mga kumander lang ang may cellphone. Kasama ako sa mga bumababa para kumuha ng pagkain sa masa. Pinakamasakit, yung sinasabi nila na walang Diyos. Dumating ang punto na pagod na pagod ka na (In the mountains, cellphones are prohibited. Commanders have cellphones. I was the one who goes down to get food from the masses. The most hurtful was when they told you that there is no God. It came to a point that you’re too tired),” Dologuin said.
When dela Rosa asked how she morphed into a “God-less” person, the former rebel pointed to her anger at her family, referring to the abuse she experienced from a family member.
“Galit sa pamilya. Kung hindi nangyari sa akin yun, di nila ako mare-recruit (Anger at the family. If that incident didn’t happen, they won’t be able to recruit me),” Dologuin said.
Then, there was 21-year-old “Allem” who requested not to reveal her real name for security reasons.
Wearing a hoodie and covering her face, she said she was only 16 and a student of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines when she was recruited by the LFS in 2014.
Allem said LFS organizers talked to some PUP professors to ask for their class to join the rallies so that they can indoctrinate them and later recruit them into the organization.
She said some professors just do not go to their classes and let the LFS take the opportunity to personally talk to the students.
“May pumapasok na organizer na taga LFS sa classroom namin. Nakita nila na may interest ako magtanong lalo na sa isyu ngcontractualization (Organizers from LFS entered our classroom. They saw that I’m interested in the issue of contractualization),” Allem said, adding that her mother has been a contractual employee for 10 years at the time.
In October 2014, at the age of 16, she joined the LFS, and later was gradually recruited into the Kabataang Makabayan.
“Dahil dito, napabayaan ko ang pag-aral ko ng second year na ako, maraming bagsak na subjects (Because of this, I neglected my studies during the second year, I failed many subjects),” she told the panel.
It was during that time that she was pressed by some colleagues to devout her entire time to activism until she was convinced by them to join the NPA.
“Sa unit sa Mindanao ako napasok, October 2017, tatlong buwan sa Bukidnon, tatlong buwan sa Compostela Valley (I was included in a unit in Mindanao in October 2017, three months in Bukidnon, three months in Compostela Valley),” Allem said.
Time to leave
She said she decided to leave in April 2018 together with another member who became her husband.
Allem said when she became pregnant and when her child became sick, she tried to get assistance from the communist group but she failed to get any.
“Sinubukan kong kumontak sa kanila dahil manganganak ako, kahit piso wala akong natanggap. Porke umalis na kami sa organisasyon at wala na silang pakinabang sa amin dahil pinili namin ito, pinabayaan na nila kami. Walang silang naitulong sa amin (I tried to contact them because I was about to give birth but I got nothing. Because we left the organization and we have no use to them, they neglected us. They did nothing for us),” she said.
Allem said this prompted her and her family to surrender to the military.
“Nung buntis ako, di ko naisip sumuko dahil tinatak sa aming mga isip na pag nahuli at sumuko kami, mato-torture kami hanggang hindi namin sinasabi ang lahat ng alam namin (When I was pregnant, I did not think of surrendering because they embedded in us that if we are caught, we would be tortured until we tell all the military what we know),” she said.
“Hindi ko inaasahan na hindi sila (soldiers) marahas. Sinundo kami ng maayos. Lahat ng kailangan namin, sinubukan nila kaming tulungan sa lahat ng alam nilang paraan (I didn’t expect that soldiers would not be violent. They fetched us and they tried to help in any way they can),” Allem said.
Return missing students
Meanwhile, Allem urged her former colleagues to let the “missing” students return to their families.
“Alam ko na sa pagsasalita kung ito magiging delikado buhay ko dahil mai-expose sila. Pero itong mga nanay na nandito, kilala ko po kasi yung mga anak nila. Pakiramdam ko isa po ako sa mga responsable kung bakit hanggang ngayon hindi pa sila nakakauwi sa mga pamilya nila (I know that speaking now would put my life in danger because they would be exposed. But the mothers here, I know them because of their children. I feel that I’m responsible for them because until now they have yet to come home to their families),” she said.
“Kahit nakatakip mukha ko, naglalakas loob ako na sabihin ang mga istorya namin dahil hindi naman alam ito ng mga Pilipino ang lahat ng mga bagay na ito. Para makarating na rin sa aking dating kasamahan na maawa kayo sa mga magulang na ang gusto lang na makasama ang mga anak nila at makita pang buhay. Huwag niyo sanang ipagdamot iyon (Even if my face is covered, I mustered the strength to tell our stories that Filipinos don’t know. This will also an appeal to my former comrades to be sympathetic to the parents who want for their children to come home alive. Don’t take that away from them),” Allem said.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)
By Jose Cielito Reganit and Joyce Ann L. Rocamora