NEW LIFE. Former New People’s Army combatant Christian Montenegro Arreza, 20, recounts his ordeal while with the communist rebels during a virtual presser hosted by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict on Thursday afternoon (Nov. 19, 2020). Arreza, a Surigao del Sur resident, says he wants to become a police officer someday. (Screenshot from NTF-ELCAC virtual presser)
BUTUAN CITY – The active involvement of parents in the communist rebel movement can be a factor for their children’s susceptibility to recruitment by the New People’s Army (NPA).
This was the case of Christian Montenegro Arreza, a young NPA combatant captured by the Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion in an encounter in Surigao del Sur in May this year.
Arreza, together with another NPA surrenderer Cheryl Dalaguan, voluntarily appeared during the virtual press conference on former child warriors Thursday afternoon hosted by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the 401st Infantry Brigade (401Bde).
“I was recruited when I was at the young age of 17 in our village in Surigao del Sur. My father and mother were active members and supporters of the communist movement in our area,” Arreza said in the dialect.
The active members of the movement, even the NPA’s regular fighters, frequented not only their village but also their home as his parents welcomed them.
Eventually, he said, the regular members became his acquaintances who recruited him to join the NPA.
“I was in the movement for more than three years serving as a political guide until I was captured by the Army last May 2020,” said Arreza, who is now 20-years-old.
But the former rebel said he had realizations when he was inside the movement, especially upon witnessing the unfair treatment of combatants from their leaders.
“Life was tough inside the NPA movement. Our leaders do not treat us fairly, a reality I personally discovered and was very different from what I was told during recruitment,” Arreza said.
Before his capture, Arreza said he had been planning to escape and surrender to authorities but was afraid of their leaders.
Arreza said his capture was a blessing in disguise that allowed him to change his life.
“My simple dream is to land a decent job and help my family. Since I was a boy, I really wanted to become a policeman,” Arreza said.
With the Army’s help and the other line agencies of the government, he is now planning to finish his studies to fulfill his dream of helping his family.
Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu of the Task Force Balik Loob said Arreza is among the hundreds of minors exploited by the NPA who are now back into the fold of the law.
“The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the NPA, are destroying the future of our children,” Mapagu said during Thursday’s virtual presser.
“They are the living witnesses that prove the recruitment of minors of the PP-NPA and their blatant disregard to their welfare and human rights, and in violation of the Philippine and international laws,” he added. (PNA)