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2 student-activists deny military abduction

June 7, 2023 Arlene Rivera 420 views

TWO former Manila-based student-activists who were allegedly recruited to the New People’s Army (NPA) on Monday (June 5, 2023) have “debunked” claims by Karapatan-Cagayan Valley that they were abducted by soldiers of the Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade (IB).

During a virtual press conference hosted by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Cedric Casano and Patricia Nicole Cierva, from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and University of the Philippines (UP), respectively, set the record straight that they “surrendered” to the military, not abducted as claimed by the front organization.

Casano and Cierva said they surrendered in Barangay Cabiraoan Gonzaga, Cagayan, on May 16, 2023 – not May 18, 2023, as reported by Karapatan in its social media account dated May 25, 2023.

NTF-ELCAC Executive Director, Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. said the government is “winning the war” against “communist terrorist groups” (CTGs) and urged the remaining rebels to come down and surrender for the “sake of peace and unity.”

“Napakahalaga na ma-sustain ang peace gains natin, lalo na sa hanay ng kabataan. Naniniwala tayo na ang focus ng recruitment ng CTGs ay nasa kabataan for obvious reasons, political survival, capitalizing on the innocence of the youth,” he said.

Earlier, Casano and Cierva, along with 18 other surrenderees, had the opportunity to meet Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba, the head of the Provincial Task Force-ELCAC, and other high-ranking military officials wherein they were “warmly welcomed” to the folds of the law.

Cierva debunked Karapatan’s “propaganda of abduction” and assured their former comrades that they were being treated well by the military.

“Sa mga kasamahan namin sa labas na nagsasabing itinago kami, eto kami at nasa maayos na kalagayan. Wala kaming naranasan na anumang maltreatment mula sa kasundaluhan kaya wala silang dapat ipag-alala. We’re looking forward sa panibagong yugto ng aming buhay at handa kaming makipagtulungan,” Cierva said.

For his part, Casano said he simply lost the “will to fight ” after he experienced the hardships and “witnessed the horrifying senseless deaths” of his former comrades from intensified military operations.

During the NTF-ELCAC press conference, Cierva recalled the circumstances surrounding their surrender contrary to claims by Karapatan that they were “captured”.

During that time, she said Casano went out to find their other comrades as they had already decided to leave the NPA and surrender.

Ivy Lyn Corpin, also a former rebel recruited from the PUP, told reporters that she helped find the parents of Casano through social media to break the news to them about their son’s surrender and whereabouts.

Corpin revealed that she and Casano were college classmates at PUP, and it was the latter who recruited her to the movement. She recalled that she went underground in 2013 and served as secretary of the East Front. After her surrender, Casano replaced her in 2016.

Casano, a Philosophy major, recalled he went full-time as an organizer and left PUP.

For her part, Cierva said she went “underground” in 2015 through the Kabataan Party-list.

Taking up a Development course at UP-Manila, Cierva said she had chosen Cagayan, her practicum area for research on rice and corn, where she first witnessed poverty among the farmers.

Casano, Cierva, and even Corpin admitted that their life story in the armed movement was not an easy one. But they all agreed that their freedom from espousing violence had totally changed their lives for the better.

Cierva said she prayed that the government, through the task force, can deliver all the basic social services to the people, especially to far-flung areas where NPA recruitments are “rampant.”