Mothers of minors allegedly recruited by leftist groups turn emotional at Senate hearing

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019   •   2716

MANILA, Philippines – Several mothers of missing students who were allegedly recruited by leftist groups turned emotional when they testified and narrated their ordeal before a Senate panel on Wednesday.

Among them were Luisa Espina, Gemma Labsan, Relissa Lucena and Jovita Antoniano who recounted the pain of being abandoned by their children and the changes they saw in them since joining leftist groups like Anakbayan.

According to Espina, her 17-year old daughter, a student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), started not going home when she joined an organization in their school.

They later found out she became a member of the Anakbayan.

“Magmula noong napasok siya diyan sa Anakbayan na yan, nagulo ang utak niya, masyadong magagalitin, kapag dinebate mo siya sa pulitika galit agad siya, kaya di na kami nanunuod ng news sa TV,” she said during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Public Order & Dangerous Drugs.

Labsan’s 16-year old daughter, a student at the far Eastern University, also left their home when she got recruited to a left-leaning group. She said they found out about it when they saw files about armed conflict and communism on her mobile phone.

“Kinuha ng papa niya ang cellphone niya, nakita po mga files, mga armadong pakikibaka, komunismo po. Nagalit na po kami, nakita ko po dun sa libro duon nakalagay Struggle of Democracy by Joma Sison,” she recounted.

Lucena narrated the same account, saying her daughter left their home after becoming an officer of a leftist organization.

When she did not come home for three days, they reported it to authorities. When her daughter returned home and found out that she went to the police and her school, she even got mad at her mother.

“Sabi niya sa akin full-time na siya siya sa Anakbayan, tapos nung nalaman niya na nagsumbong ako sa PNP at saka sa school, ang sabi po niya sa akin, kalaban na daw po ako,” Lucena said.

“Isipin ko daw na wala na akong anak,” she added.

She said she had tried to get her daughter back home but her efforts were unsuccessful.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it has taken up measures to address the leftist groups’ alleged recruitment of minors in schools, including visitation of campuses every now and then.

It also eyes monitoring teachers who are allegedly requiring students to attend protests in streets.

However, the PUP administration expressed apprehension on issuing a formal order on police visitation in campus.

“Ina-assert po minsan ng faculty o kaya ng ilang estudyante ‘yung mga aktibista na rin na meron silang academic freedom,” PUP president Emmanual de Guzman said during the hearing.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for its part, advised parents to take note of any sudden changes in their children’s behavior and actively monitor their movements in school, whereabouts, and the organizations they are taking part in.

AFP deputy chief of staff for Civil Military Operations MGen. Antonio Parlade also shared some indicators that parents may take note if their children are being recruited to left-leaning groups.

“Marami na silang alibi, marami silang paalam, pupunta kung saan, may field trip duon, sometimes, often these are not sanctioned by school and then organization namin merong pupuntahan. Ito na yung indicators na nagi-immerse na sila, and this immersion, they really meet the armed NPA’s (New People’s Army)” he said.

Based on data from the AFP, at least 513 students have been recruited as combatants by the NPA from 1999 to 2019.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order & Dangerous Drugs, said this report is especially alarming because communist terrorists are recruiting minors as their fighters.

“Alarming in the sense na mga menor de edad ito na dapat nag-aaral. Bakit nasa kalsada? Nabi-brain wash, pinopoison ang utak nitong mga makakaliwa para lumaban sa gobyerno,” he said.

The lawmaker previously cited a statement by the Department of the Interior and Local Government on the Communist Party of the Philippines’ activities to “poison the minds of the children to take up arms against the government,” and teaching them to “join rallies calling for the overthrow of government.”

READ: DILG to Reds: Spare the youth from lies, deception

Dela Rosa said they will give Anakbayan and other left-leaning groups tagged in the recruitment of minors the chance to explain their side on the issue in the next hearing.

He also said that the PNP is now preparing the charges to be filed against the alleged recruiters. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Senate OKs bill lowering height requirement for cops, other uniformed personnel

Robie de Guzman   •   September 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate bill seeking to lower the minimum height requirement for aspiring law enforcers has been approved on third and final reading.

Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1563 or the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Height Equality Act was approved with 23 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and zero abstention.

The proposed PNP, BFP, BJMP, and BuCor Height Equality law seeks to amend the minimum height requirement for male applicants to five feet and two inches from the current 5’3; and five feet tall from the current 5’2 requirement for females.

The measure also proposes to waive the height requirements for applicants belonging to the cultural communities or the indigenous people.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and sponsor of the measure, said the approval of the bill would allow the PNP, BFP, BJMP and BuCor to accept applicants who have not been gifted with towering height.

“I still believe that sacrifice, dedication and service to the country cannot be measured by height nor by any physical characteristics given by the unseen hand of our Supreme Being,” Dela Rosa said in his explanatory note.

The Senator explained that given the required mandate of uniformed personnel, and for practicality in accomplishing tasks, there is still the need to retain a minimum height requirement for them to be able perform their duties and responsibilities exceptionally.

During his manifestation after the approval, Dela Rosa cited the late President Ramon Magsaysay’s credo: “He who has less in life should have more in law.”

Dela Rosa thanked his colleagues for supporting the measure.

The bill is in substitution of SBN 312 introduced by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson; SBN 405 filed by Sen. Francis Tolentino; and SBN 871 authored by Dela Rosa.

A counterpart bill in the House of Representatives remains pending.

Senate recommends forming committee to look into PhilHealth funds

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 4, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon is recommending the formation of a committee that will look into the funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The Senator laments that even the Department of Finance cannot determine PhilHealth’s state in as fas as its budget is concerned due to the agency’s weak information system.

Drilon wants an Ad hoc committee composed of financial experts from the Social Security System (SSS), the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and other insurance corporations that will verify PhilHealth’s financial status.

This is to determine how much subsidy the agency can provide for next year.

One of PhilHealth’s officials previously revealed that the agency’s reserve funds will not be enough if the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues. The official also revealed the agency will only last until 2022 which was questioned by several lawmakers.

“How much really does it need in order to continue its operation? Is P71 billion the correct amount? Is it more? Is it less? This [the committee] will also give us the opportunity to review how much should be due to our health system in general,” Drilon said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III supports this recommendation. Sotto agrees that there is a need to review PhilHealth’s financial situation.

“We suggested yesterday that there should be an urgent and extensive review and inspection of the corporation’s financial life,” he said. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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Senate probe will push through as PhilHealth chief requests for leave — Sotto

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 10, 2020

Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto assured that the probe on the alleged corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will push through amid the request of its president, Ricardo Morales, for a medical leave.

“It won’t stop our inquiry and other witnesses and testimonies from coming out. It won’t also stop the filing of charges against erring officials of PhilHealth if warranted,” he said.

Morales submitted his medical certificate stating that he cannot physically attend the Senate hearing due to his medical condition.

Meanwhile, the PhilHealth official lamented his privacy was not respected after his medical certificate was leaked to the public.

“As president and chief executive, it is my duty to represent the corporation while still physically capable. I regret that my privacy was not respected,” he said in a statement.

PhilHealth Executive Vice President and COO Arnel De Jesus also advised the Senate his inability to attend the said hearing due to a medical emergency. The Senate inquiry is scheduled for Tuesday (August 11).

Meanwhile, members of the Department of Information and Communications Technology will also attend the hearing to shed light on the issue of the alleged overpriced IT System budget of PhilHealth.

Sotto has also recommended putting the witnesses under the protection program of the Department of Justice. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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