By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday (Nov. 12) concluded the preliminary investigation of the complaint filed against nine persons including former and current party-list representatives for allegedly recruiting minors for leftist groups.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Assistant State Prosecutor Christine Perolino received the respective rejoinders of the respondents as part of their defense.
“Nag-submit na kami ng rejoinder at submitted for resolution (We submitted rejoinders and the case has been submitted for resolution),” said Bayan Muna party-list chairman and former Rep. Neri Colmenares, who is one the respondents in the case.
Colmenares believes the DOJ should dismiss the case against him and his co-respondents.
“This [is] nothing more than pure harassment against dissenters and opposition,” he told reporters
“Kung hindi kami opposisyon, kung all praises kami kay President Duterte, hindi kami kakasuhan nito (If we aren’t part of the opposition and have been making praises of President Rodrigo Duterte, we wouldn’t have been charged),” Colmenares said.
Aside from Colmenares, the other respondents are Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, former Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin, Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan secretary general Eistein Recedes, Anakbayan spokesman Alex Danday, Bianca Gacos, Charie Del Rosario, and Jayroven Villafuerte Balais.
Last August 1, the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) and private complainant Relisa Lucena filed the complaint before the DOJ against the respondents.
Under the complaint, the respondents are accused of having violated the Republic Act 10364 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003), RA 11188 (Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict and Providing Penalties for Violations thereof), and RA 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act).
Lucena, who testified before the Senate which conducted a probe over minors being recruited by leftist groups, complained that her daughter Alicia was only a minor when she got recruited by Anakbayan after getting enrolled at the Far Eastern University (FEU) in Manila in July 2018.
“She (Alicia) left her home several times without informing her mother where she will be going and will just suddenly appear home after several days,” read the PNP-CIDG referral letter to the DOJ, citing that mother observed adverse changes in her daughter’s attitude since joining the group and attending protest rallies.
“On March 10, 2019 she again left their home leaving a letter to her mother containing strong messages against her mother and her policy at home especially her mother’s contradiction to her desires,” it added.
After reporting to the police blotter about her daughter running away, Lucena managed to convince her daughter to meet in Manila where Alicia was accompanied by Gacos, Del Rosario and Balais.
During the meeting, the mother recounted that Del Rosario even tried recruiting the mother to join the women rights group Gabriela.