ON orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Debold M. Sinas has ordered his men to go all-out against persons and groups recruiting or enticing minors including those belonging to indigenous tribes in Mindanao to join the New People’s Army, in the process separating them from their parents, the Journal Group learned yesterday.
In particular, the Commander-in-Chief ordered Sinas to instruct his men to arrest all those responsible for the recruitment or in enticing minors to join underground leftist groups specifically the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The President also ordered the PNP to rescue the victims of rebel recruitment and bring them back to their respective parents. The top target of the presidential order are those behind the activities of so-called ‘Salugpungan’ schools.
President Duterte instructed the PNP to file necessary charges against the perpetrators and to follow-up cases that have been previously filed. At the same time, he wanted the PNP to identify all local officials and businessmen supporting the rebel group.
The presidential directive came after police and social welfare officers rescued 19 indigenous tribe children from Talaingod, Davao del Norte inside a retreat house of the Jesuit-run University of San Carlos in Talamban, Cebu City two weeks ago.
It was not the first time such a rescue operation was made, officials said.
They cited an incident on November 28, 2018 wherein known journalist and Bayan Muna founder Ka Satur Ocampo and 17 others were arrested for transporting 14 minors, all Salugpungan students, in a checkpoint in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
Ocampo and the 17 others were charged in court for human trafficking, kidnapping and failure to return a minor but each posted an P80,000 bail. That year, the 12 rescued girls were brought to the Home for Girls in Maa, Davao City and the two boys at a government center in Tagum City.
On October 7, 2019, the Department of Education closed the Salugpungan School in Talaingod where the rescued minors have studied.
Sinas has visited and spoke with the 19 children. Joined by Police Regional Office 7 director, Brigadier Gen. Ronnie S. Montejo, the PNP chief expressed his deep concern on the situation of the children from the Ata Manobo tribe who were rescued by combined police and local social welfare authorities.
“I am very much concerned over the situation of the children who have fallen victims to kidnapping and human trafficking allegedly perpetrated by a front of communist terrorists pretending to be community teachers,” he said.
Montejo claimed that the 19 children they rescued inside the San Carlos Retreat House were undergoing training to become future ‘New People’s Army warriors.’
Montejo said two of those rescued who are now both 19-years-old said they were recruited by the NPA three years ago.
He added that the rescue operation was conducted after six parents of the children from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, accompanied by local officials sought their assistance.
Montejo said they were informed by the kids’ parents that their children were taken by the members of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanogon without their knowledge and consent. The six parents were accompanied by two tribal leaders and personnel of the Talaingod Municipal Social Welfare and Development in going to Cebu City.
“The children have been separated from their parents since 2018. They are victims of indoctrination and recruitment by the Communist Terrorist Group and exploitation by the Salugpungan, as they were used during protest rallies against the government,” said the PRO7 director.
“They also asked for donations using the IP minors,” said Montejo in referring to Salugpungan which he described as an alternative learning institution believed being run by the NPA movement.
Sinas assured the parents of the rescued children of full of support from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) who sought the assistance of the police in Cebu after they learned that their missing children whom they have not seen for two years were in the city.
The local social welfare officers from Cebu City and Talaingod are providing psycho-social intervention to the children with their parents.
“As Chief, PNP I will not allow the communist terrorist groups to take advantage of the vulnerable indigenous communities and their children who are considered as the leftist’s last bastion for deception, manipulation, and terror acts in their attempt to overthrow the government,” Sinas said as he expressed full support to the police in the region who did their job to rescue and protect the IP children from further harm and danger in the hands of their captors.
Seven persons, believed to be members of the communist front Salugpungan Schools shut down by the government in 2019, were arrested for bringing the children from Talaingod to Cebu City without the consent of their complaining parents.
The seven were inquested in Davao del Norte by the PNP Women and Children Protection Center-Visayas Field Unit before the Davao del Norte Provincial Prosecutor’s Office for kidnapping with serious illegal detention, violation of the anti-child abuse law, child exploitation and human trafficking via video teleconference from the PRO7 office.
Two Datus, two teachers and three adult Lumad students are respondents in the case.