A 17-year-old was among the alleged communist guerrillas who surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in Impasugong, Bukidnon on Aug. 11.
Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, the commander of 8th IB, identified the minor as alias Marben, a member of the Militia ng Bayan. He surrendered along with his brother, alias Rodel, 19, a former regular member of Company Malayag, Sub-regional Committee 2, North Central Mindanao Regional Command (NCMRC).
The third surrenderee was identified as alias Ryan, 26, a former supply officer of Sentro De Grabidad Dario of NCMRC.
They brought with them one Garand rifle, one .45 caliber pistol, and an M1 Carbine, along with ammos.
Rodel claimed that they were forced to join the NPA out of fear. He was allegedly told that he’s wanted by the soldiers so he had to come with them.
“They also promised to give my mother P2,000 and one sack of rice each month as support but they didn’t fulfill their promise,” he said.
He then learned that the NPA recruited his younger brother, which made him decide to escape and rescue Marben. The two brothers then approached their friend soldier.
Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, the commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, acknowledged the efforts of the indigenous communities for helping the government achieved its goals. He said the IPs have been instrumental in convincing some rebels into surrendering.
Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Eastern Mindanao Command head, condemned the continued recruitment of minors to become child combatants.
“I could see my children in you. At a very young age, you were deceived by the CPP-NPA terrorists. They used your inability to read and write as an advantage. They have been using you without you knowing the real life in the mountains. It breaks my heart to see you suffer this misery,” he said.
Under Chapter 2, Sec. 7 of Republic Act 11188 or an Act Providing Special Protection on Children in Situations of Armed Conflict, children “have the right to be protected from recruitment into government forces or armed groups and participation in armed conflict including the right to be protected from torture or any cruel, inhuman, or degrading practices.”