DECEIVED. Malvin Christian V. Cruz of Barangay San Nicolas, Oton, Iloilo was identified by his parents as the NPA member who was killed in an encounter with government troops in Sitio Lay, Barangay Dalije, Miagao, Iloilo on June 29, 2020. The Army said Cruz was deceived into joining the movement when he was only 17 years old. (PNA photo courtesy of 61IB)

ILOILO CITY – A member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who was killed in an encounter with government troops on June 29 joined the movement when he was still a minor.

The NPA rebel, 21, who was identified by his parents as Malvin Christian V. Cruz of Barangay San Nicolas, Oton, Iloilo, was recruited into the communist-terrorist group when he was 17 years old, a press statement from the Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) showed.

Cruz, also known in the movement as alias "Lean/Lucas" was a 1st year Bachelor of Arts in Statistics student at the University of the Philippines Visayas-Miagao campus during the school year 2015-2016 when he was misled into joining the NPA.

“He was four years in the movement. He was claimed after barely five days by his parents from a funeral parlor in Miagao, Iloilo,” said Lt. Col. Joel Benedict Batara, commanding officer of the 61IB, in an interview on Monday.

He said based on gathered information, Cruz cut communication with his parents for more than three years.

Batara said the recovery of the rebel's body was a clear evidence that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA continue to recruit minors and youths from target universities.

“This communist NPA terrorist, they want to destroy the very fabric of the society, including the smallest unit of the society—the family. They would like to separate the parents from their children because once they lost control over their children, that would be a success on the part of the NPA,” he added.

Parents, he said, should be alarmed once there is a change in the behavior of their children and when they no longer come home and join protest actions.

“Student activism is normal. The government is encouraging students to be active because it develops their critical thinking. But once he armed himself, he has to face the law,” he added.

Prior to joining the rebel movement, Cruz was an active member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and the IBON Foundation, a non-government organization.

In the NPA, he was team leader of Squad 3, Suyak Platoon, Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay led by Joven Ceralvo.

Batara said Cruz was given a position in the movement because of his background as a UP student, his organization, and teaching skills.

On June 29, Army soldiers figured in a clash with rebels at the mountainous part of Sitio Lay, Barangay Dalije, Miagao, after acting on an information from concerned citizens that NPA terrorists were recruiting minors in San Joaquin and the said town.

The body of Cruz was recovered in the encounter site, along with his M16 rifle.

Government troops also clashed with NPA members last April 18 in another village in Miagao where 11 members were captured including five minors.

“The targets of their recruitment are the minors because of their idealism, dynamism, lack of experience, and guidance from parents,” Batara said.

He added that with the massive rebel recruitment, the role of parents, barangay officials, and local government units is very critical in making sure that children are provided with the right information.

Meanwhile, Batara said the new Anti-Terrorism Law recently signed by President Rodrigo Duterte is a strong measure seen "to crush the NPA”.

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