A RANKING official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently expressed alarm over the continued recruitment of minors by the New People’s Army in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
Brigadier General Henry Dayaoen, commanding officer of the 503rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, said in a recent interview that these minors were involved in criminal activities.
“We actually have a surrenderer who was illegally recruited at the age of 13 until this person got out at the age of 35 whose future was destroyed and what is sad here is that this individual incurred criminal records,” Dayaoen said.
The AFP, Dayaoen added, wants to focus on rescuing children recruited by the communist groups and help them re-integrate into society.
Dayaoen said he believed there is a big possibility that communist groups are also involved in the use, sale and transport of illegal drugs in the region to fund their illegal activities.
“There is a possibility that these armed terrorists are also engaged in the sale and distribution of illegal drugs particularly marijuana because their intention is to destroy the future of our people and the country. This, aside from them wanting the youth to be involved in the use of illegal drugs to commit crimes which they use for their illegal activities as well,” Dayaoen said.
Dayaoen said there are 135 to 140 communist rebels operating in the region.
Although the number of communist rebels has dwindled, Dayaoen said their presence is still felt in the mountainous areas of the region.
“At present, the NPA is seen operating in the areas of Balabalan, Kalinga, at the territorial boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and at the Ilocos Sur area. An example of this is what happened last year when there was an encounter between the PNP and AFP against the NPA’s where we were informed of their presence coming from the community who reported the destruction being done by the communists on their water system at Bauko,” Dayaoen added.