At Senate hearing, parents lament kids' recruitment into leftist groups

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2019 04:46 PM

Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Panfilo Lacson listen to mothers whose children were allegedly recruited by leftist groups during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, August 7, 2019. Joseph Vidal, Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau 

MANILA - Several parents faced the Senate Wednesday expressing grief over their missing children after they were allegedly recruited by leftist groups in school.

In a hearing of the Senate committee on public order, panel chair Sen. Ronald dela Rosa launched an investigation into leftist groups’ supposed recruitment of minors from colleges and universities, saying the practice must stop.

“Nagdurugo ang aking puso. Pareho tayong parents. We all want what is best for our children, kaya ramdam ko ang pinagdadaanan niyo ngayon,” Dela Rosa told Relissa Lucena, whose daughter was allegedly recruited by militant youth group Anakbayan while she was studying as a senior high school student at the Far Eastern University.

(My heart is bleeding. We are both parents. We all want what is best for our children, which is why I sympathize with you.)

Lucena said she enrolled her daughter at the FEU precisely to keep her away from leftist groups. But on the first week of classes, her daughter told her she would attend a rally and that she was already a member of Anakbayan.

“Sa problema ng gobyerno at leftists parang lagi pong may diskusyon pero iyung mga paghihirap ng mga magulang ‘di man lang na-mention, na kami ang nagpalaki, nag-aruga, tapos ginamit ang anak namin sa pulitika. Parang wala kaming proteksyon saka pamilya namin,” a sobbing Lucena told the Senate panel. 

(In the problem between the government and leftists, there are always discussions but the plight of the parents are rarely mentioned. We raised them, took care of them, but in the end they are used for politics. Our families have no protection.)

Lucena said she last saw her daughter last July 10. Her daughter also left a letter where she accused her of being “manipulative, an oppressor, and a hypocrite.”

“Gusto ko lang maibalik ang anak ko, kasi ‘di na ako nakakatrabaho sa bahay namin. Kaya po ako lumalaban ng ganito kasi wala akong pinagkaiba kasi para na nila akong pinatay. Hindi ko kayang mabuhay ng wala ang anak ko.”

(I want my child back because I could not work. I continue fighting because it’s as if they have killed me. I can’t live without my child.)

Another grieving mother, Luisa Espina, said her daughter started joining activities of militant groups when she entered the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, a state-run university perceived to be a breeding ground of youth activists in the country.

Espina said her daughter started joining protests during the second half of the school year, where at one point she found her joining other activists in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“Magmula ng napasok siya sa Anakbayan na iyan nagulo ang utak niya, masyadong magagalitin. Kapag dinedebate mo siya sa pulitika, galit siya. Kaya hindi na kami nanonood ng TV kapag nandiyan siya kasi iba na ang pananaw niya sa gobyerno,” Espina said.

(Since she joined Anakbayan she has changed. She easily gets mad, especially when we argue about politics. That’s why we stopped watching the news when she’s at home because she views the government differently.)

Espina said her daughter left home on Christmas eve last year.

Elvie Caalaman, 42, said her daughter also joined Anakbayan, left home in October last year, and has only visited five times since.

Caalaman’s daughter also enrolled at and finished PUP’s 2-year senior high school program. But her daughter no longer pursued college studies and instead got involved in leftist groups.

“Sobrang sakit na inalagaan mo ang anak mo, tapos pagdating ng ganong edad iiwanan ka na lang,” Caalaman said.

(It’s so painful to raise your child only for her to leave you upon reaching that age.)

A certain Mr. Antoniano, father of another PUP senior high school student, said losing his daughter to leftist groups may actually be worse than seeing her getting addicted to drugs.

“Sana man lang po matulungan niyo kami na malantad ang aming anak kahit magparamdam lang siya. Mula po nung isang taon wala na kaming communication sa kanya,” Antoniano said.

(I hope you could help us find our children. I have not seen my daughter for a year now.)

“Daig pa nila ang droga. Mabuti pa ang nag-droga nakikita pa eh, sila wala na po talaga.”

(It's worse than drugs because at least you still get to see them.)

POLICE PRESENCE IN CAMPUSES?

Dela Rosa said the supposed recruitment activities of leftist groups in colleges and universities should prompt better coordination between school authorities and security officials.

“Kung beyond your control ‘yung outside of your premises, sana within your control ang inside ng premises,” Dela Rosa said.

(If you don’t have control over things outside your premises, at least have control inside your premises.)

“MPD (Manila Police District), dapat dagdagan niyo ang patrol sa loob para mabubulabog ang nagre-recruit sa loob,” added the former national police chief, referring to PUP.

(To the MPD, you should increase your patrols inside to thwart recruiters.)

But PUP president Emmanuel De Guzman said allowing police presence within the campus might trigger protests and prompt more students to join the leftist movement.

“Ang pinangangamba ko lang po, kung magpapasa pa ang board ng dokumento, lalo itong magpapaigting sa mga nandoon, ibig sabihin gagamitin nila ang dokumentong ito para makapaghikayat,” De Guzman said.

(My worry is that if we pass a document, this might stir emotions of people and some might use this document to recruit more.)

“May pagka-sensitibo ang sitwasyon sa isang academic institution. Pupuwedeng magpalubha ito ng sitwasyon. Ang gagawin ng mga lider ng mga taga-labas, ipipinta nila ang PUP na militarized. Ito ay maaaring maging sanhi ng mas malaking recruitment.”

(The situation in an academic institution is sensitive. This could worsen the situation where leftist leaders would paint the PUP as militarized. This could trigger more recruitment.)

But Interior Undersecretary Bernardo Florece Jr. said the government must not be afraid of students and should instead protect them against leftist personalities.

“Nagiging passive tayo in such a way that we don’t want to pass a circular that can be exploited by the group. Parang lumalabas na tayo pa ngayon ang takot sa estudyante,” Florece said.

(We have become passive in such a way that we don’t want to pass a circular that can be exploited by the group. It’s as if we are afraid of the students.)

“Sa circular we can issue a guidance to the students not to join rallies during class hours and many more things. We can even allow our armed forces to conduct lectures. We have very good speakers who can speak before the students.”

(In the circular we can issue guidance to the students not to join rallies during class hours and many more things. We can even allow our armed forces to conduct lectures. We have very good speakers who can speak before the students.)

Dela Rosa agreed there’s nothing wrong with letting security forces inside educational institutions. 

“May napakalaking inequality, disparity. Bakit itong mga government schools ina-alllow nila ang mga komunista mag-recruit sa loob ng kanilang eskuwelahan, tapos binabawalan ang gobyerno na pumasok para naman, hindi naman mag-recruit, just to give little education sa mga estudyante nila,” Dela Rosa said.

(There’s a huge inequality, disparity. Why do government-run schools allow communists to recruit but they bar security forces to give a little education to students.)

He cited a 1989 accord which bars police from setting foot inside the University of the Philippines Diliman, an offshoot of the oppressive martial law days during the Marcos dictatorship.

UP has its own police force. 

“Itong mga ganitong (this type of) agreement, purely leaning towards the left,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also a former police chief, said government must intensify efforts to stop leftist groups from recruiting minors in colleges and universities.

“Obviously this is an internal security problem as well as a law enforcement problem. In the middle of all of this, balik tayo sa (we go back to a) battle of the hearts and minds, kasi doon ang labanan sa recruitment (that's where the recruitment battle is),” he said.

In October last year, the military released a list of 18 colleges and universities where leftist groups allegedly recruit members, a move slammed by school officials.

Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the statements of the mothers justify their move to bare the list of schools allegedly being influenced by communists.