MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) announced that legal charges will be meted against candidates running for the October 2023 "Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections" (BSKE) who will be supported by the "communist terrorist group" (CTG) and its front organizations.

Regional Task Force-ELCAC 6 spokesperson Prosecutor Flosemer Gonzales issued this warning during the weekly press conference dubbed “TAGGED Reloaded: Debunking Lies By Telling The Truth” aired on Monday.

National Youth Commission (NYC) chair Undersecretary Ronald Cardema, who was also present in the event, revealed that their regional offices have been coordinating with the Office of Vice President (OVP) and concurrent Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte to closely monitor schools especially those that are vulnerable to recruitment activities by CTG front organizations.

Duterte was earlier designated co-vice chairperson of NTF-ELCAC along with National Security Adviser (NSA) Secretary Eduardo Año.

The NTF-ELCAC is led by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

Both Gonzales and Cardema were dismayed at what the former called “from books to armalite” brand of recruitment by these groups among students and even from the out-of-school youth (OSY) sector that promotes armed violence and bloody overthrow of the government.

They appealed to school administrators and teachers not to aid recruitment activities by groups like the Anakbayan, the underground Kabataang Makabayan (KM), Gabriela, Anakpawis, among others, as they too are not immune from legal suit.

“To teachers, especially school administrators, who teach our students to bear arms, you are criminally liable. We will do anything to file charges against you,” Gonzales said.

Cardema has supported this even as he underscored the need to prevent the these fronts from conducting recruitment activities among students to support SK candidates that will be bankrolled by the CTGs.

“All areas are being monitored through our regional NYC offices. Even the teachers’ ranks, they should be monitored. Teachers serve as advisers of these students. If we can stop all these recruitment activities, the NPA will die down naturally. Why? Because they can’t recruit senior citizens to become terrorists,” the NYC chair said.

Gonzales said the role of the Vice President is crucial to bar NPA recruitment in schools.

“They (fronts) will not succeed in our schools through the help of the Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte,” he said, adding that “critical thinking” should not be used as an excuse in allowing students to associate with CTG fronts.

In the press conference, the NTF-ELCAC played a video of a 23-year-old Ana, a former psychology student from the University of the Philippines-Cebu (UP-Cebu), who got recruited to the NPA in 2022.

With all the information she provided to her parents and relatives, Ana was rescued by Army operatives in November that same year in Negros Occidental. Had she not joined the NPA, Ana could have been an accomplished degree holder.

“Recruitment is a reality, it’s happening. Ana is a classic case of ‘from books to armalite’. But because of love and care by her parents, our Army soldiers were able to get her back to her family. Now, she was being threatened by the NPA because these terrorists blamed her to their series of defeats from military operations. Love conquers all, indeed. Ana will have a beautiful life outside the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front),” Gonzales said.

“If you are hiding under what you call ‘critical thinking’, please don’t allow our students to be recruited by front organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF. These people (recruiters) had no respect for human life," he further stressed.

"The life of their recruits, our young students, always end up in tragedy,” Gonzales, whose appeal was directed to the school administrators and teachers, pointed out.

He also cited the demise of eight young recruits who perished from hunger recently somewhere in Northern Luzon.

“These NPA recruits came from Mindanao, they belonged to an indigenous people or IP. The CPP-NPA-NDF even call these young victims martyrs. What a height of hypocrisy!” Gonzales stressed.

For his part, Cardema, who claimed that he was once a KM recruit from UP-Diliman, the CPP-NPA-NDF fronts had exploited the “idealism” of students to recruit them as New People's Army fighters.

“Our focus now is to fight youth recruitment in schools and communities by the NPA. It’s time to prevent this for the sake of nation building,” he said, citing Marcos’ “Youth and National Building Act” he sponsored when he was a lawmaker.

The battle, he added, will also continue in Congress wherein remnants of the Makabayan bloc continue their lies and deceptions.

“Through the NTF-ELCAC, we’re able to reduce their number. Noon ay walo sila hanggang sa naging anim. Ngayon, tatlo na lang sila (They were eight, then they became six. Now, they're down to three),” he said. (PNA)