A Mother’s Crusade: Fighting to End Child Recruitment by Communist Terrorist Groups
LE October 12, 2023
In the bustling heart of Quezon City, where the urban sprawl meets the vibrant culture of the Philippines, lives a mother whose life has been forever altered by an unthinkable tragedy. Luisa Espina, a warm and resilient woman, once dreamed of a bright future for one of her daughters, Louvaine Erika. Little did she know that the child’s young and vulnerable mind was seduced with promises of radical change and a sense of belonging and that her path would lead her into the shadows of a duplicitous and bloodthirsty underground movement.
Luisa’s home had always been a sanctuary of warmth and laughter shared with her family. Louvaine, a charismatic and bubbly 16-year-old, was the embodiment of their hopes and dreams. The parents had worked hard to provide her with every opportunity for a successful life.
However, Luisa observed a slight change in Louvaine’s conduct and behavior as she hit her mid-teens. The first signs of trouble became apparent when Louvaine began to voice her extreme political views. She became an activist in her school, taking part in all events pertaining to her organization. She became less social with her family, got estranged from her childhood friends, and spent more time alone in her room. Louvaine was detached from herself, her family, loved ones and friends.
Luisa’s maternal instincts sensed that something was amiss.
Her fears were confirmed one fateful evening when she found out that her daughter left home, leaving behind only a letter filled with revolutionary rhetoric. “January, nakatanggap ako ng sulat na ang sabi ang hirap pong isipin talaga na may anak po kayo na ganito dahil nabuhay tayo sa komportableng buhay ngunit naisipan ko pong pagsilbihan ang malawak na hanay na ‘masang api’ na ito lagi ang mga quote ng mga bata na sinasali o nirerecruit na ‘serve the people’, ‘masang api’, Luisa stated.
Luisa, who was devastated and in need of help, set out on a quest to discover the reasons why her daughter had chosen to leave her. Through emotional sessions, Luisa was able to comprehend the psychological manipulation that had devoured her daughter. She went to support meetings for families who had been affected by radicalization in an effort to find comfort and guidance from individuals who had traveled a similar journey.
“Kaming mga magulang na magbibigay ng buhay na patotoo. Mga testimonya na tungkol sa pangyayari sa aming mga anak. Sa Hands Off po kami nagbibigay ng awareness drive at community service sa abot ng aming makakaya. Kami po ay patuloy na ikakalat ito dahil may nawawala pa pong kabataan”, Luisa added.
With the help of authorities, Luisa worked tirelessly to expose the New People’s Army’s activities, its leaders and devilish scheme on how young children are aroused, systematically organized and eventually coerced to mobilize under the spell of communist cadres, enablers and collaborators. Her collective grief together with other families who had experienced a similar journey transformed into a force for change, and “Hands Off Our Children Movement” was born in order to refute the communist terrorist NPA’s ideology, which preyed upon gullible young minds searching for purpose and belonging in their vulnerable ages of 15 to 17 years.
“Sila (CTG) yung number one (1) na nagviviolate sa karapatang pantao. Ano yung vinaviolate nila? Karapatan ng mga magulang na pag-aralin ang mga anak nila, siguraduhing secured ang mga anak nila na mapoprotektahan nila, karapatan ng bata ito na makapag-aral at makapamuhay nang maayos at payapa. Iyon ang inaalis nila sa mga batang ito”, Annabelle shared, one of the mothers from HOOCM.
As the campaign gained momentum, local media and communities began to pay attention. Luisa and her fellow parents organized rallies, awareness campaigns, and educational workshops to inform parents and children about the dangers of communist front organizations’ recruitment in schools, universities and communities.
“Sana maging eye-opener at sana magbukas ang puso ng bawat magulang at maisip ng mga organisasyon na mali sila. Na ang panloloko nila sa kabataan, sinira nila ang buhay pati ang kinabukasan ng buong pamilya”, Mary expressed, one of the mothers from HOOCM.
The movement’s impact reverberated far beyond the locality’s borders. Policymakers and human rights advocates were drawn to Luisa’s unflinching determination, prompting changes in legislation and increased government support for de-radicalization programs.
Today, Luisa Espina, the movement’s tireless champion, remains dedicated to her mission, making sure that no other mother has to go through the suffering she is going through, and the “Hands Off Our Children Movement” continues to be a beacon of hope, providing assistance to numerous families struggling with the threat of child recruitment by communist terrorist groups. Nevertheless, she still has faith that the day will come when she and her daughter will be reunited. ###
NTF-ELCAC MEDIA BUREAU Ref: Joel M. Sy Egco 09155506969 October 9, 2023