75% of NPA rebels in Mindanao are IPs: Esperon

By Priam Nepomuceno / Philippine News Agency

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. (PNA File photo)

MANILA – The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) is deliberately deceiving and radicalizing indigenous peoples (IP) to fill up their ranks especially in Mindanao, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. said Monday.

Esperon, during the June 21 episode of "Tagged: Debunking Lies by Telling the Truth", said the communist terrorists were able to achieve this by their use of so-called NPA schools which initially pretend to exist to give IP youths a brighter future.

In fact, he said, around 70 to 75 percent of NPA rebels in Mindanao are natives recruited by the communist terrorists among IP groups, he added.

"Sinadya talaga, sa pamamagitan ng pag-radicalize ng ating mga kabataan sa mga tinatawag nating NPA schools na kunyari ay ginamit nila yan na magbibigay sana ng magandang kinabukasan na through education ngunit naman nila mga eskwelahan na yan para makapag recruit (Their decision to recruit and radicalize our youth are intentional. They do that by using the so-called NPA schools that pretend to give their recruits a good future via education but in reality, they are using these schools just to recruit (and radicalize)," he added.

Esperon, who is National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) vice-chair, was referring to the Salugpungan, the Tribal Indigenous Filipinos Phil-Surigao Del Sur, Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and the Community Technical College of Southern Mindanao.

87% of surrenderers IPs

Citing data from the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, he said 87 percent of the surrendering NPA rebels to the unit are IPs.

"At ang nakikita natin sa datos na yun ay yung mga nagsu surrender ay nakuha noong mga edad na 10 hanggang 12 years old, dun pa lang, kinukuha na sila at hindi naman nirerecruit pa yung mga batang mas bata pa dahil doon pala nag aaral sa mga eskwelahan pero pagdating ng 10 to 12 years old, sinisimulan na yan na gamitin na sa pakikipaglaban kung hindi naman taga karga o tagadala ng mga gamit (Data shows that from those who surrendered, they were recruited when they were 10 to 12 years old. The younger children are not yet recruited as they are still studying in their schools but once they reached 10 to 12 years old, they will be utilized by communist terrorists in fighting and if not, they will be used to carry goods and other equipment)," Esperon said.

Data also revealed that almost all of the recruits only had the equivalent of a Grade 3 to Grade 6 education.

"Ang ibig sabihin nun, hindi talaga pag-aaral ang binibigay ng mga Salugpungan schools, yung mga tribal schools na yan, kundi upang iradicalize lang sila, upang sa tamang o sa edad na pwede na sila makipagbakbakan ay (kukunin) na sila, yun ang purpose nila (It means that education is not the real purpose of those Salugpungan schools. Those tribal schools, their purpose is to radicalize these IPs, so once they reached the proper age, they can now be used for fighting)," he added.

Subsequent investigations on these NPA-operated tribal schools cannot really provide proper education to their students as they do not have the so-called "learners' number".

"Kaya hindi aabante kaya pag magpunta talaga yan sa eskwelahan na DepEd (Department of Education) ay wala naman sila learners' number kaya saan sila ilalagay? uulit lang sila. Sa makatuwid, ang purpose talaga non ay upang ma-recruit lang sila at ma radicalize upang maging NPA fighters (Students in these NPA schools cannot progress academically once they are transferred to DepEd schools because they don't have a learners' number. Where exactly will they be assigned? They will have to repeat. So once and for all, the purpose of these schools is to recruit and radicalize so that these IPs can be turned into NPA fighters)," Esperon said.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

IP exploitation

"So, there goes the fact that they have exploited the IPs, only to get warm bodies to fight (for) the CPP- NPA, another way of exploiting them," Esperon said.

Aside from using vulnerable IPs as front-line fighters, communist terrorists are also utilizing the dearth of schools in their areas to raise money.

"Ang ginagawa ngayon ng Save Our Schools na nakikita natin, na sila pala, nakikita naman natin sa kanilang messages na ginagawa nila ay pagkalap ng pondo sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng maling impormasyon sa international community na hindi natin inaasikaso itong mga IPs. (Save Our Schools is trying to raise funds by stating wrong information to the international community that the IPs are not being taken care by the government)," he said.

He added that while these dubious groups are collecting the funds, they are not telling the donors that the money goes straight to the NPA that uses it to fund schools that radicalize IPs. (PNA)

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