These parents say left-leaning groups kidnapped their kids. Here’s the rub.

September 6, 2019 - 3:25 PM
The League of Parents in the Philippines rallying in Manila (Frater Patrick Christian Ong/Released)

A newly formed group of parents marched the streets of Manila against left-leaning organizations whom they alleged of recruiting their children to become rebel communists.

The Civil Relations Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shared photos of the event on August 29.

REPOSTLOOK : Parents from Hands Off Our Children Movement joins the League of Parents in the Philippines in an…

Posted by Civil Relations Service AFP on Thursday, August 29, 2019

A so-called League of Parents in the Philippines said it formed the group to raise awareness on the “deceptive recruitment of minors” by supposed members of communist rebels.

It also aims to help parents whose children have been part of these organizations.

“The League of Parents of the Philippines composed of concerned parents from different groups who are worried about this recruitment on our children while in school and university premises.”

“We also sympathize with the heartaches of the parents of the student that are missing and others already with the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front].”

The protest took place on August 29 around the university belt in Manila, Ong said. The demonstrators passed the University of Santo Tomas, Far East University and the Mendiola Bridge. It was attended by at least 300 participants.

“Magsisimula silang magpukaw ng damdamin sa pamamagitan ng mga issues na malalapit sa kabataan gaya ng tuition hike, away sa pamilya. Kakaibiganin nila sila. Kalaunan, gagawin nilang mga pambansang usapin at ang pinakadulo nito ay paglatag sa armadong pakikibaka at pagsapi sa NPA na s’yang tanging solusyon sa pambansang krisis,” LPP Secretary General Grace Ibona said.

Based on the photos shared by the attendees, tarpaulins with faces of the missing students were brandished during the march.

Leaders of left-wing groups were also featured in some of the tarpaulins such as Sarah Elago of Kabataan, Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan.

Moreover, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, a controversial lawyer who publicly supports the Duterte administration, was also seen as among those who spoke at the protest.

The rally program from University of Santo Tomas (UST), Far Eastern University (FEU) and Plaza de Chino Roces (Mendiola Bridge).

Posted by Frater Patrick Christian Ong III on Thursday, August 29, 2019


There are several reasons, however, why the allegations could be further challenged.

They don’t distinguish the critical left from the extreme left

The post noted that a group called LPP is composed of parents of children whom they believed to have disappeared to join legal youth groups such as  Anakbayan and Kabataan party-list and became armed rebels.

“The parents that started the Hands off our Children Movement are parents of children who were recruited by Anakbayan, LFS, Kabataan Partylist and other legal fronts,” the agency said.

“Their children have since left their home and stopped schooling. Some of their children have already joined the NPA,” it added.

The groups identified, however, are legal organizations who have left-leaning views, usually critical of the government while pushing for pro-poor policies. The New People’s Army, meanwhile, is a rebel underground armed organization that has long been hunted down by state forces.

Affiliation with larger international group is vague

The post also mentioned the Hands off our Children Movement, claiming that the parents were earlier involved in a larger initiative.

The movement, however, is a multimedia platform on child abuse prevention based in the United States. Its website also reposts reports of missing children, but there are no indications that this international group suspects armed communists to be behind the incidents.

Interaksyon has tried to reach those behind Hands Off Our Children network since Friday, August 30, but has received no response as of press time.

Protesting against joining protests

Some Filipinos online also criticized the LPP’s goals, stressing the irony of parents staging a demonstration even as they oppose allowing students from taking part in protests.

Scant evidence, ample coincidence

Leftists or militants have been the subject of headlines for a while ever since parents of five missing students testified at a Senate hearing led by neophyte Senator Ronald dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa was the former Philippine National Police chief who carried out the drug war which led to the death of thousands of Filipinos in bloody police operations. The violent counter-narcotics raids in poor communities since 2016 led to the fatal shooting of children.

The protests also came as President Duterte escalated his rhetoric against his critics, including journalist and the political left. His stance has been echoed by his top officials, including police chief Oscar Albayalde himself alleging the recruitment of young people by communist guerillas while denying that the police targeted left-leaning individuals in its fatal operations in Negros Oriental earlier this year.

Two of the missing students, Alicia Lucena and Lory Caalaman, previously surfaced to assure their parents of their safety. They also confirmed they were members of Anakbayan and Kabataan, respectively.

However, they disproved rumors of them becoming communists since the groups they joined are unarmed and non-violent.

The military also has presented no strong evidence linking the progressive parties as recruiting fronts of the New People’s Army.