MILITARY TO MONITOR STUDENTS
Centcom seeks to stop NPA recruitment in schools
The military wants to stop rebel groups from recruiting new members from different schools.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command (Centcom) plans to meet with officials of the different colleges and universities in Central Visayas to seek their help in monitoring the students.
While the military won’t prevent students from joining militant groups, Col. Medel Aguilar, Centcom spokesperson, said they want to make sure the schools will not be infiltrated by rebel groups.
“We want to do this to protect our students. It’s really sad to see intelligent and strong individuals have their lives destroyed by joining undesirable elements of society,” he said in an interview.
“Although there is nothing wrong with airing our grievances, I hope it would remain just that, because sometimes, there are legitimate organizations that are being infiltrated by armed groups. Alam natin yan. So dapat bantayan baka makuha ng radical groups. (We already know that. So we need to monitor them so they won’t be recruited by radical groups),” he added, alluding to the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Joisa Cesista, chairperson of Anakbayan Cebu, reminded the military that there was nothing wrong if students would join their group or any militant organization.
“They must know the difference between legal democractic movements and the NPA. They must keep their hands off us because we are a legal organization,” she told Cebu Daily News.
“There is a huge difference between holding placards and guns. The military must respect our rights to air our grievances,” he added.
A leader of Anakbayan was among the six persons arrested by the soldiers from the 62nd Infantry Battalion (62IB) after an alleged encounter in the Hinterland Village of Mabinay town, Negros Oriental early Saturday.
Myles Albasin, 21, was secretary general of Anakbayan Cebu a few months after she graduated from the University of the Philippines Cebu College with a degree in Mass Communications in June last year.
She, along with five men, was detained at the Negros Oriental Provincial Jail after a complaint of illegal possession of firearms and explosives was filed against them.
The five others were Carlo Ybañez, 18, and a resident of Mandaue City; Ajomar Indico, 29, and Randel Hermino, 19, both of Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental; Joel Baylosis, 18, of Mabinay town; and Bernard Guillen, 18, of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Interviewed by dyMD Energy FM in Dumaguete City, Albasin denied that they owned the high-powered firearms with grenade launchers allegedly seized by the soldiers from them.
She said they were in Barangay Luyang, Mabinay town, to learn about the plight of struggling and poor farmers as well as to inform them of the public services they were entitled to.
To prevent recruitment by communist groups in schools, Aguilar said they were open to a dialogue with students and school officials to determine what needed to be done to ensure peace and order in the region.
“We just want to know why there are those who need to join undesirable groups? I believe no parent or school wants to see their children or students join any armed group,” he said.
“If we can do something to protect themselves, then we will do it, of course, without violating the right to assembly and freedom of expression,” he added.
Aguilar urged those who had complaints against the government not to cross the line and violate the law. Otherwise, he added, the arms of the law will catch up with them.
“Let us see the government as a whole, and not just look for faults without even offering a solution,” he said.
The Police Intelligence Units, on the other hand, would also closely monitor possible recruitment of rebel groups in Cebu, said Supt. Reyman Tolentin, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).
At present, however, he said Cebu remains insurgency free.
“We want to keep Cebu as it is. That is why we are strengthening our monitoring activities to prevent rebels from establishing their groups here,” he said in an interview on Monday.
“We would like to remind our young people not to be deceived by any group that wants to take advantage of their vulnerability,” he said in a separate interview.
Last December, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a proclamation declaring the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations.
Anyone proven to be financing these groups would be held liable under the law.
The President also warned of a possible crackdown on left-wing groups, accusing them of being communist fronts.
Tolentin urged the community to help law enforcers in fighting insurgency.
“Please be vigilant, and if you notice any activities of insurgents, please report it to the police right away so that we can act accordingly,” he said.
Asked if there was a need to beef up police forces in Negros Oriental following the arrest of suspected NPA members, Tolentin said they were willing to provide additional policemen there.
But so far, the PRO-7 had not received any request for an augmentation force in Negros Oriental.
“I just want to remind groups like the NPA (New People’s Army) that they could not easily take over our police stations because our operatives will definitely give them a good fight,” Tolentin said.
He advised the six suspected rebels to just answer the complaints filed against them at the prosecutor’s office.
“The wheels of justice are moving. We just can’t release them because they were validly arrested. They might as well answer the accusations against them in the proper fora,” he said.
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