By: Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – Another criminal complaint was filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection (CIDG)-6 before the City Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday against six leaders of some progressive groups for allegedly recruiting minors to join the armed struggle.
Captain Cenon Pancito III, spokesperson of Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID), said that qualified human trafficking charges were filed against Albert Dela Cerna, National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) secretary-general John Milton Lozande, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) secretary-general Noly Lacera Rosales, Proceso Quiatzon, Karina Mae Dela Cerna, and Cherryl Catalogo.
The six activists were arrested during the simultaneous raids conducted by the CIDG-6, Army, and local policemen at the offices of the KMU and Gabriela Negros at Barangay Bata, NFSW office at Barangay 33, and a house at Barangay Taculing, by virtue of search warrants issued by the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City last October 31.
The sworn affidavits submitted by three of the 13 minors rescued during the series of raids, and two other witnesses were signed by Assistant City Prosecutor May Christina Cuevas yesterday.
Pancito said the three minors were among the rescued minors who were allegedly directly recruited by the said respondents to join the group for cultural shows, and later on be trained to become “child warriors” of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The six respondents are already facing two criminal complaints for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and illegal possession of explosives, following the recovery of several firearms and explosives at their offices during the operation.
These suspects are among the 42 persons, who are also facing the same charges.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, and former partylist representative Neri Colmenares visited the offices of the progressive groups, which the authorities raided last week, as part of their two-day fact-finding mission here.
They also went to Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) headquarters here, where the arrested suspects are being held for custody.
Zarate said the series of raids conducted by the authorities here were patterned and the evidences were also “planted.”
He said that even the 21 former bus workers who were present in one of the offices of the progressive groups for a consultation were also included in the criminal complaints.
This shows how intense the red-tagging is on the members of some progressive groups and members of the Makabayan Bloc, he said.
For his part, Colmenares, in a media interview, said the charges filed against the militants are baseless, as he reiterated that “bringing children at the offices is not a crime.”
“Kailan naging krimen ang magdala ng anak sa opisina? Ibig sabihin lahat ng sundalo walang dinadala na bata sa kampo?” Colmenares asked.
Colmenares said that crime is committed when there’s killing and stealing. He said the charges filed against the militants are non-existent.
Some members of the Makabayan Bloc recently passed a resolution directing the House Committee on Human Rights to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation on the mass arrest of leaders of progressive organizations and activists in the Negros island, as well the reported planting of firearms, explosives, and other evidence.
The resolution was signed by Zarate, Bayan Muna Partylist Representatives Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat, ACT Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Jane Elago.
In response, Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde) challenged the members of the Makabayan Bloc to a public debate to prove their claims.