Senators want inter-agency task force to probe alleged recruitment of 'missing minors'

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 03 2019 01:01 AM

Jovita Antoniano, mother of a missing 11th-grader, wipes her eye as she looks at an alleged former New People's Army (NPA) rebel during a Senate inquiry on missing minors supposedly being recruited by leftist organizations. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - Senators are seeking the creation of an inter-agency task force to look into alleged recruitment of minors by militant groups.

Fifteen senators representing various committees and three ex-officio members signed Senate Committee Report No. 10, penned and submitted by Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday.

The report centers on the findings and recommendations arrived at by the Senate committees on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, headed by Dela Rosa and National Defense, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

The committee report stemmed from Resolution No. 38 that seeks to probe the reported “missing minors” allegedly recruited by various militant organizations which serve as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front (CCP-NPA-NDF).

Last July, the Senate listened to the stories of four mothers whose daughters were allegedly recruited by youth groups Anakbayan, Kabataan Party-list and League of Filipino Students.

The complainants were Relissa Lucena, mother of Alicia who was recruited by Anakbayan while studying at Far Eastern University Senior High School; Elvie Caalaman, mother of Lorevie, a student of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines; Luisa Espina, mother of Erika who was enrolled in PUP Sta. Mesa as a senior high school student; Gemma Labsan, mother of Ghemarie, a grade 11 student of the University of the East, and Jovita Antonino, mother of Trisha who was also a student of PUP.

The report underlined 11 recommendations, which included the creation of an inter-agency task force composed of the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Commission on Human Rights and other government agencies and private institutions.

One of its tasks will be to "investigate other students that might have been recruited by communist-terrorist groups and provide protocol to search and rescue them without compromising the security of the latter and their respective families."

The report also recommends further investigation into Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago and others mentioned by the complainants throughout the course of the Senate investigation.

“Schools mentioned in this Report should be investigated as to the reported recruitment activities of minor students within the premises of their campuses. Should evidence warrant, corresponding administrative sanctions should be meted out against erring and negligent school administrators,” the report stated.

Elago and progressive groups tagged in the report have yet to issue statements, as of posting.

The report's other recommendations are as follow:

  • Adopt psychological de-briefing/ de-radicalization program for students to be performed by the DSWD and in coordination with PNP 
  • Investigation of allegations against teachers
  • Regular review of academic curriculum / modules, and monitoring and evaluation of school activities
  • AFP/PNP to conduct seminars/lectures to students and parents on “arouse, organize, mobilize” and career orientation in the law enforcement sector
  • CHED and DEPED should look into the possible liabilities of school administration and teachers
  • Strictly implement Department Order No. 66 and CHED Memorandum Order 63 that regulate the conduct of off-campus activities
  • Stringent regulations on the issuance of student identification cards
  • Police visibility around and within campus’ premises, and;
  • Increased /intensified internal security enforcement in schools

The report also recommends amendments to the following laws:

  • Republic Act 11188 - Special Protection of Children in Situations Of Armed Conflict Act
  • Republic Act 9208 - Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003
  • Republic Act 7610 - The Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act
  • Republic Act 7941 - Party-List System Law
  • Republic Act 9372 - The Human Security Act

Senators who signed the report include Lacson, Dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino, Christopher “Bong” Go, Manny Pacquiao, Richard Gordon, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Joel Villanueva, Imee Marcos, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar, Sherwin Gatchalian and Ex-Officio members Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.