Stop recruiting minors; spare youth from your war, DILG to Reds

MANILA -- The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday called on communist rebels to stop recruiting young students and out-of-school youth for their cause of fighting the government.

“Spare our young people from your lies and deception,” DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said in a statement Tuesday.

He made the statement after several teenaged New People’s Army (NPA) combatants were killed in encounters with government forces.

According to Año, the youth are easy to manipulate and brainwash making them priority target recruits of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Huwag ninyong sirain ang kinabukasan nila. Huwag ninyo silang linlangin at idamay sa mga pakana ninyo para mag-aklas laban sa gobyerno (Do not destroy their future. Don't deceive them into fighting the government). The youth should be in school and not in the mountains,” Año said.

“The youth are a brave, curious and adventurous bunch. So the communists take advantage of these qualities along with their vulnerabilities to deceive, manipulate, and threaten them into becoming one of their own,” he added.

The DILG chief said communist terrorist groups capitalize on issues like cost of education, neglect of the youth sector, poor internet connection, lack of career opportunities, among other socioeconomic issues to agitate the young people and indoctrinate them on the communist ideology.

“The communist terrorists poison the minds of our children by teaching them to hate the government and arming them with guns. This form of child trafficking must stop,” Año said.

He appealed to the youth to train their sights on productive endeavors like sports, the arts, and other worthwhile activities during their spare time instead of being “led into the spider’s web.”

“Don’t fall into the deception and smooth talk of the communists. I tell you, it is a trap. They will sow hatred and lies into your heads so that you will become their vessel to unknowingly work to push their twisted ideology,” he said.

The United Nations (UN) earlier reported that 30 Filipino children were recruited and used by different local terrorist groups in 2017. Of the number, six were recruited by the NPA.

Republic Act 11188 or the “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict,” signed on January 10, 2019 by President Rodrigo Duterte declares children as “zones of peace” and prohibits violence against and recruitment of children into armed groups.

Last May 19, 2019, the Philippine Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion confirmed that the CPP-NPA-NDF is recruiting minors after a young NPA fighter was killed during a clash at Barangay Cancavan, Carmen, Surigao del Sur.

Another 15-year-old combatant was killed during clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA in Sitio Bayongon, Barangay Astorga in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur on April 21, 2018.

Meanwhile, two boys and a girl were also killed in yet another clash between the government troops and the NPA in Compostela Valley on July 12, 2017.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PR)