Surrendered rebels claim UP, PUP students threatened into joining NPA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — Twenty rebels who surrendered to the police reported that several university students were threatened into joining their group during "immersion" visits to their areas. 

In a media briefing Monday, one of the surrendered rebels from the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) relayed his account of meeting several students particularly from the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) who visited their community in Barangay San Antonio, Kalayaan, Laguna.

The rebels were also part of the Dumagat tribe residing there and reportedly surrendered to authorities on January 11 and 12, the PNP said. 

"Ang mga estudyante na sinasabi nag-aaral sa UP, nakikipamuhay sila sa amin, nagtatanong kung maginhawa 'yung aming ginagawa o mahirap," he told the press. 

[Translation: The students who were studying in UP, they were accompanying us, and asking if we were living comfortably or not.]

The former rebel, identified as Ka Ruben, said there would be around eight students who would visit their homes to ask them about their livelihood.  The rebels, in turn, would share their woes to the students to convince them to join their group or threaten them from returning to the city, he said. 

"Dinadaan nila sa dahas para matakot 'yung tao…ginagawa nila takutin hindi binabalik 'yung ibang tao sa bayan," he described.

[Translation: They would use threats to scare the people…they would scare them to prevent them from returning to their city.]

Police Regional Director of CALABARZON C/Supt. Edward Carranza said the students were "immersing", which he described as a voluntary practice to visit communities.

Carranza said he was convinced by the testimonies of the rebels since their intelligence reports confirmed some CPP-NPA members were former students of the aforementioned schools. 

"'Yung word na ginagamit dito is 'immersing' whether they will stay there or what, pero it's not within the curriculum. It's voluntary on the part of the students and we have already historical data kung sino 'yung mga member ng CPP who were former students in those universities," he said.

He added that one of the threats made against the students was the prospect of being targeted by the military. 

"Nag-iimmerse sila doon then later on, the threat is if they go back dito sa urban area may threat na sinasabi ng NPA na target na kayo ng military," Carranza said.

[Translation: They would 'immerse' there then later on the threat is if they go back to the urban area, the NPA would say they would become the target of the military.] 

PNP Chief C/Supt. Oscar Albayalde said this is the recruitment tactic of the rebels to "poison" the minds of students.

"Ito 'yung mga sinasabi na 'immersion' na kunwari si ganito pupunta doon. Tapos malalason na 'yung pag-iisip tapos tatakutin na hindi pwedeng bumaba so mapipilitan itong mga estudyante to stay there," Albayalde said. 

[Translation: This is what we call immersion where someone will go to a particular place. Then their minds would become poisoned and they will be treated to return to their city so the students just remain there.]

Carranza said the recruitment of the NPA among students remains to be the subject of their intelligence efforts. 

This is not the first time these schools were put into the spotlight for allegedly associating with the CPP -NPA. In October the military released a list of Metro Manila universities allegedly linked to the "Red October" ouster plot of the rebels. An AFP official also said these schools were the target of recruitment campaigns of the reds. 

Albayalde maintained that they continue to coordinate with the Education Department and other agencies to counter insurgency in the country.  "We are coordinating with DepEd officials. This is part of a 'whole government' approach on ending the insurgency problem in our country," Albayalde said.