MANILA - Former lawmaker Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Rep. Lustina Francisca Castro are "active" members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the chief of staff of the Philippine military said Monday.
Ocampo, Castro and 16 others were arrested last week over the alleged kidnapping of students at a Lumad school in Davao del Norte.
"Talagang itong si Castro at saka itong si Satur Ocampo, they are active members of the CPP-NPA (New People's Army)," military chief General Carlito Galvez said, adding that this is why the 2 left-leaning leaders are facing separate charges in Ormoc, Leyte.
Ocampo, he told reporters, is also a propagandist of the CPP-NPA.
The former lawmaker said he ceased being a member of the communist party after he was incarcerated because it is their rule that "once a suspected leader of the CPP-NPA is arrested, he loses the titles and the duties in the revolutionary movement, but he has options to go back."
Ocampo said he has opted to stay above ground and join the "open, legal protest mass movement," including the organization of the Bayan Muna party-list in 1999.
"All of my activities are above ground until now," he told ANC's Headstart.
Ocampo, a peace negotiator from the side of the communist rebels during the reign of President Corazon Aquino, said his role is reactivated whenever the government initiates peace negotiations.
"That happened during the Duterte government, so I have been invited as an independent cooperator but that does not make me a generic part of the National Democratic Front. I maintain my independent actions," he said.
Castro and Ocampo earlier said their group rescued the students and teachers of Salugpongan Learning Center after it was allegedly padlocked by paramilitary groups last Wednesday.
The group however failed to present documents of parental consent for the 14 minors who were on board their vehicle when it was flagged down, police said.
Ocampo and Castro were charged with kidnapping and human trafficking. They were released from police detention late Saturday after posting bail.
Galvez, meanwhile, maintained that Salugpungan and the Alcadev school for Lumad are being used as "breeding ground" for the NPA.
Castro earlier denied that her group taught elementary school children to turn against government.