DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 6, 2010) – The Philippine military on Tuesday branded as propaganda claims by communist New People’s Army rebels that it is recruiting minors to help the government fight insurgents in Mindanao.
Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a regional army spokesman, said the allegations were baseless to hide the NPA’s continued violations of human rights on civilians and terror activities in the southern region.
The NPA accused the military of recruiting Juve Latiban (identified as Job by the military), then 16 years old, to be a member of the government militia group – Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit - and fight insurgents.
Latiban and another soldier, Sergeant Bienvenido Arguelles, were seized by rebels on June 19 in the village of Upper Ulip in Compostela Valley’s Monkayo town and are being held as prisoners of war.
“The cat is finally out of the bag. Now it can be said without any shade of public doubt. That in its failed and defeated Operation Plan Bantay Laya II, the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines recruits and arms minors as combat pawns in its war against the people and the revolutionary forces. That what it accuses the people's army of doing turns out to be a matter of official policy in its ranks, long practiced in their counter-revolutionary theater,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command.
Sanchez said the military recruiter of Latiban provided him and 18 other minors with fake birth certificates to cover their real ages.
But Garcia turned the table on the rebel group and said: “The propaganda mill of the terrorists is working overtime after a rattled silence in their panic to divert the case from the real issue of kidnapping and trying to smokescreen their apparent inability to shield their armed front from the wrath of the people in view of their terror attacks against our citizens, against development, against progress and against our country.”
“The irony of all ironies has been let loose by kidnappers who want to deceive the people for the nth time and divert the issue of kidnapping to their irresponsible and baseless accusation that the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (member) they abducted is a minor. The allegation is a ploy to malign the Armed Forces as an institution together with government instrumentality and community organizations who certified that those who voluntarily joined the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit to watch over their communities are falsifiers.”
Garcia said members of the paramilitary force is a community watch group against rebels and criminal elements and that all volunteers pass through stringent screening to find out fraudulent applications.
“Volunteers are nominated by the Barangay (village) or Municipal Peace and Order Councils through a resolution and aside from the birth certificate, the certification of local officials as for their ages as well as the applicant’s good standing in the community is sought contrary to the communists’ recruitment tactic of hoodwink in deceiving the parents of the children whom they have recruited and put in harm’s way and deny the child warriors’ existence when they are captured, surrendered or worse, killed in combat,” he said.
Garcia said more than a dozen minors who were recruited by the NPA as rebels surrendered to the 10th Infantry Division since last year.
“All of them recruited, armed and manipulated by the NPA under the absolute order of the Communist Party of the Philippines in doing terror attacks against our own people,” he said, adding, the solid proof of a child warrior and a celebrated one at that is the case of Zaldy Canete alias Jinggoy, who surrendered to the military and admitted to have been recruited by the NPA at the age of 13 and at 16 was already fighting troops alongside veteran rebels in Compostela Valley province.
“Now, Job Latiban is being held against his will and is subjected to unimaginable torment of being abducted by a dreaded group that gained notoriety in killing people with total disregard to human rights and mass murder even of its own kind.”
“The pronouncement that Latiban attested that he is a minor is an offshoot of their systematic psychological torture against an individual under duress who might have been forced to accept a bitter choice than to suffer a deadly fate that has befallen so many God-fearing and service oriented troops whom they have abducted and mercilessly murdered in the guise of revolutionary justice like Sergeant Rolen Maglangit whom they killed in May 22 last year,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the rebels boast of a justice system where they are the prosecutor, the judge and the executioner rolled into one. He said no one can expect justice in such a mockery where cases are fabricated and the individual is forced to face a Kangaroo court against concocted pieces of evidence.
“Anyone under duress and subjected to such torment especially by a Godless terrorist organization like the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army and National Democratic Front will admit anything and follow their every whim,” Garcia added.
The rebels are fighting the past four decades to topple the democratic government and establish a Maoist state in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the rebel group collapsed in 2004 after the CPP accused President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several accords, among them the release of all political prisoners and the commitment to take steps to undo the inclusion of the CPP, NPA and NDF chief consultant Jose Maria Sison in the U.S. and other nations’ list of "foreign terrorists."
But new Filipino leader, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, said he will pursue peace talks with communist rebels in an effort to end bloody fighting in the Philippines.
The CPP said it would welcome new peace talks with Aquino and asked Manila to commit itself to all previous agreements, including The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 which set the guiding principles, framework, agenda and procedures for the talks, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
It also urged the Aquino government to resolve the outstanding cases of abduction and enforced disappearance of NDF peace consultants, including Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid and Rogelio Calubad and their staff members and called for the immediate release of Eduardo Sarmiento, Eduardo Serrano, Glicerio Pernia, Angela Ipong, Jaime Soledad, Randy Malayao, Alfredo Mapano, Jovencio Balweg and other consultants who were arrested during the previous Arroyo regime and continue to languish in prisons.
Authorities said those arrested were notorious rebel leaders. (Mindanao Examiner)