By: Jennifer P. Rendon
THE New People’s Army (NPA)’s alleged recruitment of minors into its ranks is a gross breach of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Convention on the Rights of Children, according to the military.
But a military official said the rebel group has ignored this fact and continues to recruit children and minors.
According to 1Lt. Hazel Joy Durotan, 61st Infantry Battalion spokesperson, they have gathered proofs that NPA members who clashed with 61st IB soldiers in Pres. Roxas, Capiz on July 5, 2019 were recruiting children 10 to 14 years of age.
“Our IT experts were able to open mobile phones left behind by rebels. They were exploiting these children through their social media accounts,” she said
Durotan said this could be a cause for alarm because they destroy the future of the young.
These minors appear to be in school but “seemed to be adventurous. Gusto nang humawak ng baril,” she said.
“The rebels capitalized on this adventurism to lure children to join the movement.”
No one was killed or injured among the soldiers who encountered around 15 members from the Sangay sa Partido sa Platoon (SPP)-East of NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyon – Panay.
The rebel group was led by a certain Guning.
Captain Cenon Pancito III, 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) spokesperson, said that the group has not been active before.
They concentrated on the eastern side of Panay, particularly on the 1st district of Capiz and fifth district of Iloilo.
Pancito said what the soldiers overran was a rebel encampment as manifested by the recoveries.
Members of 61IB recovered a portable generator, a multi-media projector, two hand grenades, an anti-personnel mine, eight rifle grenades, four back packs, two mobile phones, a container of gasoline, two sacks of rice, and other personal belongings and subversive documents with high intelligence value.
Aside from recruiting minors, Pancito said the group planned to launch tactical offensives against government forces and installations.
“But our troops were able to pre-empt it,” he said.
Pancito tagged the group, which now adopted the name Eastern Front, as irrelevant and doesn’t pose a potential threat.
“Their strength is something that could not be considered as significant,” he said.
For an NPA unit to be classified as significant, they must have at least 15 armed members.
“In their case, mas mababa ang members nila. They are not a formidable force to reckon with,” he said.
From hinterland villages, the rebels have inched to barangays near the town proper.
Pancito said they are investigating reports that the rebels might have incurred casualties during the incident encounter.