Gov’t agencies ink pact vs  rebel recruitment in schools 

Various government agencies signed an agreement that aims to stymie efforts by rebels to recruit students. (Jennifer P. Rendon)

By Jennifer P. Rendon 

Representatives from nine government agencies and institutions have come together to formalize their efforts against New People’s Army (NPA) recruitment in schools.

The memorandum of agreement signing on “Peace, Security, and Safety of Educational Institutions and Provisions of Basic Services and Support Pursuant Hereto” was done afternoon of September 5 at the Madia-as Hall, Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 headquarters at Camp Delgado, Iloilo City.

The signatories include:

* Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)

* Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

* Department of Education (DepEd)

* National Intelligence and Coordinating Agency (NICA)

* Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division

* Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6)

* Commission on Higher Education (CHED)

* Philippine Science High School – Western Visayas High School

* Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)

* Department of Justice (DOJ)

A brainchild of the Basic Services Cluster of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) – Region VI, the forging of the agreement was anchored on the State’s duty to “defend the right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and provides for special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.”

The MOA “will promote the best interest of the child, prevent radicalization and CTG (communist terrorist group) infiltration and recruitment inside schools.”

Under the MOA, all signatories are expected “to reiterate and reinforce the declaration of all schools in Western Visayas as Zones of Peace.”

Tarpaulins and signages declaring educational institutions in the region as “Peace Zone” will be placed or put up in a manner that the message is prominent and noticeable.

The PNP, AFP, DILG-6, and CSOs, in partnership with DepEd and CHED, shall ensure that a Child Protection Committee exists in all schools “to guarantee that schools remain as a place where children can receive utmost security and peace.”

The PNP, AFP, DepEd, CHED, PSHS, and RTF-ELCAC SAKM Cluster shall come up with a four-part module to educate the students on the lies and deception being used by the rebels in recruiting youth and students into their ranks.

The modules will also be integrated in the National Service Training Program (NSTP) and shall also be imparted to all students in grade school.

Prosecutor Flosemer Chris Gonzales, RTF-ELCAC6 spokesperson, said that the agreement will also pave the way for provision of basic services to students.

In some areas, TESDA will also be offering skill training to students and, even, to their parents.

“We expect that this will be criticized by the Left but were bent on protecting our school children against NPA recruitment,” Gonzales said.

Meanwhile, Ingeniero said that the agreement goes beyond the putting up of tarpaulins.

“We have so many projects and programs in the government. Kulang lang sa marketing and this is one way to ignite curiosity among our youth,” he said.

For Major Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 3ID Commander, the said endeavor is laudable owing to the fact that it put a premium on the security and protection of children and youth.

“It is not only protecting your children; it is protecting our future. It is not just my future, not your future; it is everybody’s future. When we secure the children, we secure the future, as fondly said by our national heroes. I am happy that the effort is being done by the whole of government and eventually with the whole of nation approach including other sectors of the society,” Arevalo said.

Citing that the children are the leaders of tomorrow, Arevalo stressed the need to secure and ensure that the leaders of tomorrow would be in the same right mentality and dedication that we have as public servants we should be able to secure them now more than later.