AT 15 years old, Regin (real name withheld) thought that she found her forever in Noel (also not his real name).
Just like any other suitor, Noel wooed her until they went dating.
But unlike any other love story, the man did not bring Regine to his parents.
Instead, Noel brought her to the mountains and introduced her to his world: the New People’s Army (NPA).
There, she was indoctrinated on the revolutionary movement.
Regin, a Grade 7 student in Tapaz, Capiz, had to leave school and stayed in the hinterlands of Central Panay to be with Noel. She stood as the group’s cook and served them their meals. She also joined the rebels in their sorties in different villages.
While Regin did not participate in any armed encounter, she claimed she was taught how to handle a gun.
This initially happened without her parents knowledge until recently.
More than two months into the movement, Regin finally called it quits – at least with the NPA movement.
She still has to break up with her boyfriend and is believed to be in communication with some NPA members but she swore not to return to the rebel fold.
“Nahihirapan na rin s’ya. At her young age, she should not have been subjected to such hardships,” said Lieutenant Colonel Sisenando Magbalot Jr., commanding officer of the 61st Infantry Battalion.
Magbalot said what happened to Regin was a form of deception that targets teenagers like her.
“It’s a scheme employed by the NPA. They don’t only use young men to entice girls to join the movement but they also employ good-looking female rebels to recruit men into the group,” he said.
On purpose, they let these men and women fall in love with them and later recruit them to join the armed struggle, he added.
In the case of Regin, her family’s relatives and friends who are either CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit) members or Philippine Army personnel facilitated her surrender this month.
Regin’s surrender is proof that NPA had been deliberately recruiting minors, who are one of the vulnerable sectors of our society, to take part in their criminal activities, Magbalot said.
“We condemned the CPP-NPA for abusing and destroying the future of a 15-year old girl. She is supposed to be studying in school instead of carrying guns and dodging bullets,” he said.
Meanwhile, Major Gen. Dinoh Dolina, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said that recruiting and abusing the child is a gross violation of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
It also violates Republic Act 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination.”
“The communist terrorist organization deliberately abuses not only her young and innocent mind but her future, as well. It’s a heartless and inhumane act. They are the true child abuse perpetrators who forced the children not only to carry firearms but also to take part on their bloody armed struggle,” he
Regin is now reunited with her family while her case is being validated.
Once validated, she would be recommended to receive benefits under the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Meeting Program (E-CLIP).
Aside from the “love ploy,” blackmail is also allegedly a common scheme adopted by the rebels in recruiting new members.
“They would go to a certain community. Tapos pahahawakin nila ng baril ang mga magsasaka doon or kalalakihan, kahit na babae pa,” Magbalot said.
Unbeknownst to these residents, the rebels would take a photograph of them while holding on to a firearm.
“Tapos tatakutin ka nila na kung hindi ka sasali o makikisama sa kanila, they would send your photos to the military or police saying that you have already joined the movement,” Magbalot said.
Magbalot said there have been efforts to counter recruitment activities of the NPA.
“We go to the different barangays and do film showing. Usually, these rebels target youth, women and farmers,” he said.
The awareness drive is also through lectures.
“Dapat malaman nila na niloloko lang sila. What the rebels are saying are nothing but empty promises,” Magbalot said.
He said the Phil. Army has also been actively doing security pressures through internal security operations (ISO).
“We are making it difficult for them to roam around. Through that, it would be doubly difficult for rebels to their extortion activities. Without extortion, gutom sila kaya napipilitan ang karamihan sa kanila na mag-surrender na lang,” he said.
But Magbalot said there should be also be social pressure coming from elected officials, who will condemn the NPA’s inhumane activities.
There should also be active participation from other government agencies like the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
Meanwhile, Captain Eduardo Precioso Jr., 3ID spokesperson, said they are coordinating with school authorities to allow them to conduct lectures and dialogues.
On the other hand, Dolina encouraged the youth to stay in school and prioritize their studies.
“I hope, they won’t allow this terrorist organization to exploit their minds and misuse their abilities in terrorist activities,” he said.