Lorenzana slams NPA: Children must not be dragged into conflict

By Gabriel Pabico Lalu / Philippine Daily Inquirer

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — After reports came out that three Lumads — including a minor — were killed in a military operation in Surigao del Sur, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday questioned the involvement of children in the armed activities of communist rebels.


Lorenzana said any ideology or fight is not a justification to make children become fighters for the New People’s Army.


It was reported recently that three individuals, identified as Lenie Perez Rivas, 38; Willy Salinas Rodriguez, 20; and a 12-year-old child were killed in an encounter with the Philippine Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion in Lianga town. However, activists have claimed that the victims were mere farmers and not rebels.


“Bilang isang ama, nalulungkot akong makitang humantong sa kamatayan ng mga bata ang pangyayaring ito. Ano man ang ipinaglalaban, hindi dapat inilalagay sa panganib ang mga bata,” Lorenzana said in a post on Twitter on Friday night.


“Ang tanong ko: bakit patuloy na nire-recruit ng mga NPA sa kanilang hanay ang mga bata sa kanilang pakikipagtunggali sa ating mga sundalo?” he also asked.


Lorenzana’s statement was posted on Twitter together with photos that purportedly show young people as alleged NPA fighters.


Reports from the military on Thursday indicated that three NPA members were killed in an encounter with government forces in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. According to Philippine Army (PA) 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Maj. Rodulfo Cordero, the team of special forces fought with communist rebels at Diatagan village.


Cordero said the rebels fired at soldiers and detonated an anti-personnel mine, which was followed by a 10-minute firefight.


While the military has condemned the communist rebels, several human rights groups have condemned the attack as they claimed that the victims were merely caught in the military’s anti-insurgency campaign.


According to the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the latest military action in Surigao del Sur stresses the need for international awareness and intervention for such incidents involving alleged human rights abuses.


However, Cordero said that weapons — which were used by the rebels before they were killed — were seized after the encounter.


In a separate statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who belongs to the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives, said that it seems like the Armed Forces of the Philippines is using a supposed NPA encounter narrative to justify their actions.


“While the Philippine National Police use the ‘nanlaban’ modus then plant guns against their victims, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on the other hand, is apparently using the ‘NPA encounter’ modus then plant guns and explosives against their victims. They seem to be using the same playbook,” the lawmaker asserted.


“We call for an independent and thorough probe on this massacre – the latest in the string of rights violations committed by security forces against the Lumad in Mindanao. No amount of spin and lies of the NTF-ELCAC should be allowed to cover up this brutality,” added Zarate, referring to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the government’s anti-insurgency body.

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