By FRANCIS WAKEFIELD
Five young members of the Manobo tribe in Bukidnon were lured by promises of jobs in Metro Manila last year but found themselves become reluctant members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“This only shows that Indigenous People (IP) and other minority groups are continuously being exploited by the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTG) to regain their ranks,” said Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, spokesman of the Armed Forces (AFP)-North Luzon Command.
On July 5, the five teenagers surrendered to the military with the assistance of the local community in Licuan Baay, Abra.
Three of the surrenderers are 18-year-old while two others are 17 and 15, according to Nato.
They were interviewed by joint elements of Joint Task Force (JTF) “KAUGNAY” and the local police.
The 18-year-olds were turned over by the Licuan-Baay Municipal Police Station (MPS) to the Army’s 24th Infantry Battalion (24IB) for proper disposition and medical examination.
The two minors, on the other hand, were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office (DSWDO) for appropriate social intervention.
Nato said the five teenagers were recruited by a certain Jeffrey Mandagit in August of last year to go to Manila to work as piggery caretakers.
They boarded a passenger ship from Cagayan De Oro to Manila and upon arrival at the port were fetched by Mandagit and brought to University of the Philippines Diliman Campus in Quezon City.
Nato said the teens were obliged to join mass protests in Manila in September with a promise that they would get the job within the week.
The promise was not fulfilled.
In October, the teens were sent to Abra with the promise of jobs in Bangued.
Instead, they were brought to an NPA camp and became a full-time fighter.
They proceeded to an undisclosed barangay in Abra in November and spent a month providing security to their political officers, according to Nato.
Nato said their activities in Abra included attending cultural presentation, commemoration of the death of prominent comrades and training, while their comrades and political officers conducted meetings and planning activities, including tactical offensives against selected targets.
“Their revelations manifest the illegal utilization of the young Indigenous People (IP) recruits in different mass mobilization, mass works being taken advantage by the legal and left-leaning organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” Nato said.
“With the Local Government Units (LGUs), and through Local Peace Initiatives, NoLCom will continue to encourage more NPA members to abandon their armed struggle and give them the opportunity to live peacefully again with their families,” he said.