Hatred, lies, and failed promises.
A young female combatant of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) said these were the things she encountered during her two “grueling” years within the communist rebel movement, forcing her to yield to government forces on November 9, 2020.
Leilan (not her real name) said she was 17 when lured by NPA recruiters into the movement, enticed by the promise she would be sent to school for free, as well as financial support for her family.
Unlike the other cases of surrenders involving NPA rebels, her case was unusual in many ways.
First, police and military authorities had to travel some 500 kilometers to fetch her and her child from North Cotabato to bring her to Surigao City, her hometown.
Her “extraction” also required some degree of secrecy and careful planning because the NPA leadership hid her at a secure location, on orders of her squad leader who impregnated her.
“The promises of a good life, free education will really entice you to join the movement. After agreeing to join them, I, together with other young recruits, was radicalized through indoctrination and teach-ins on their ideology, propaganda, and hatred to the government,” the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion (29IB) quoted Leilan as saying.
Before joining the NPA full-time, Leilan narrated that she was first asked to join the underground mass organization in her hometown, participate in protest rallies, and other activities of left-leaning groups that have known ties with the communist rebel movement.
“I also served as a courier of the armed group before formally taken in as a regular NPA member,” she said.
She was then assigned to the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda 16B (SYP16B) of Guerrilla Front (GF) 16, under the NPA’s Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).
After several months inside the movement, Leilan said she slowly realized that the promises made to her by the leaders were false.
“There was no support to the family, no education. That’s my realization inside the NPA movement. The movement only gave me daily miseries, hardships, and fear,” she said.
She said she was worried about what the leaders would do to her if she asked to leave the movement. Adding to the fear was her mounting concern that she would die if their poorly-equipped unit would clash with government forces.
Several times, Leilan said she would ask if she could take some time off but was immediately refused. Her break, she said, came when she got impregnated by her squad leader, who ordered that she be hidden somewhere in North Cotabato until she gives birth.
Leilan said she arrived in North Cotabato in December last year and gave birth there in August this year.
“The situation of Leilan was relayed by her parents to the members of our Community Support Program (CSP) Team assigned in Quezon, Surigao City. It’s a good thing that Leilan maintained contact with her parents here in Surigao,” 1Lt. Edmar C. Colagong, 29IB civil-military operations officer, told the Philippine News Agency Saturday.
Leilan was first apprehensive about connecting with the Army as NPA leaders told her that soldiers would kill her if she got caught.
“The CSP team and her parents finally convinced her to surrender after days of negotiations,” Colagong said. “For security reasons, we have to conceal the exact barangay and town where we fetched Leilan for her surrender.”
Lt. Col. Isagani O. Criste, 29IB commander, praised Leilan for her courage.
“Leilan is a living example of the human rights violations committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA, and their political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF),” Criste said.
There was no question that the NPA deceived Leilan, who was still a minor when she was recruited, Criste said, adding that her “dream of attaining education went for naught through lies by the CPP-NPA leadership.”
Another top military official in the area, Col. George L. Banzon, commander of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade, called on Surigao del Norte residents to help the government shield the youth from the recruitment of the NPA.
“The communist terrorist group (CTG) are opportunists who capitalize on the vulnerabilities of our youth, and the case Leilan was a classic example of this. By luring her to join the violent armed struggle, the CTG deprived her of the opportunity to have a better future,” Banson said.
Military officials said Leilan is now being enrolled to avail the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) for her to attain opportunities that she was denied while fighting for the NPA.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. (Alexander Lopez, PNA)