'Missing' activists surface as Bato holds Senate probe into their alleged disappearance

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 14)— Two of the alleged "missing minors recruited by leftist groups" made an appearance at the House of Representatives on Wednesday -- but still refused to go home.

Alicia Lucena, a former senior high student from the Far Eastern University personally showed up at the House together with representatives from the left-leaning Makabayan bloc for a press conference. At around the same time, her mother, Relissa Lucena, was at the Senate to seek help after her activist daughter has left home.

"Ako dapat ang pumu-protekta sa anak ko, bakit kayo? Ako dapat ang kasama ng anak ko, bakit kayo? Gusto ko lang makuha ang anak ko," the mother said at a hearing of the senate committee on public order and illegal drugs.

[Translation: I should be the one protecting my child, but why are you the ones with her? I just want her back.]

Alicia and four other students were earlier reported missing, prompting a Senate Committee headed by Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa to investigate reports that students being recruited to join leftist organizations eventually became fighters of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

But Alicia said she left their home in July because her family did not approve of her decision to become an activist. She said she willingly joined progressive group Anakbayan to serve the people.

"I prefer not to talk to them dahil super hostile ng approach nila sa akin. Nasa bahay ako pero dinadala nila ako sa Camp Bagong Diwa at Camp Aguinaldo dahil sa pagiging aktibista ko. Hindi ako nawawala o kinidnap. Umalis ako dahil nakita ko ang pangangailangan para sa pagkilos ng kabataan," she said.

[Translation: It was my choice not to talk to them because they were hostile. They brought me to police camps Camp Bagong Diwa and Camp Aguinaldo because I'm an activist. I was not abducted. I left because I saw that the youth sector needed me.]

Alicia and another student, Lorevie Caalaman, insisted that it was their personal decision to leave home and pursue activism.

Alicia said she is willing to speak to her parents again if they stop going to the police and the military.

"Kapag tinigil na lahat ng ito at wala nang agenda sa pagkausap sa akin," she said.

[Translation: When all of this stops and they stop having any agenda when they talk to me.]

But her mother and dela Rosa think Alicia and other young activists were brainwashed.

"Kunin mo ang anak mo. May pulis ka na kasama. Hilahin mo. Anak mo 'yun. You have all the right in this world to put your daughter into your custody. Sila, wala silang karapatan. Kaya pag sila ay humaharang sayo, may pulis na po-protekta sayo," the neophyte senator said.

[Translation: Take your child back. Bring the police with you. Pull her. She's your child. You have all the right in this world to put your daughter into your custody. They don't have any right. If someone gets in your way, the police will protect you.]

Four alleged rebel returnees also testified before the Senate hearing. They narrated their experiences when activist group members recruited them until they reached the point when they joined the NPA.

Among them was an alias "Allen" who arrived wearing a hooded jacket, shades, and a face mask. She claims she knows some of the missing students who were from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

"Kilala ko po kasi ang mga anak nila. Pakiramdam ko po isa ako sa mga responsable kung bakit hanggang ngayon hindi pa sila nakakauwi sa pamilya nila," the alleged rebel returnee said.

[Translation: I know their children. I feel like I was one of those responsible why they still haven't returned home.]

But when asked by one of the mothers if she knows the whereabouts of her child, Allen did not give a concrete answer.

"Ngayon po na hindi pa siya pinapalitaw, sa tingin ko nasa larangang gerilya na po siya," Allen said.

[Translation: I think she is with the guerillas now.]

Both the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Education say they have existing policies about extracurricular and off-campus activities of students.They say these policies must be strictly implemented to avoid similar incidents from happening.

Dela Rosa said some witnesses revealed "politically-explosive information" during the executive session.

He said he will think about whether he will call for the continuation of the hearing or they will wrap the hearing up and prepare the committee report.