COTABATO CITY — Eight (8) indigenous youth who were victims of illegal military recruitment have finally come home in Maguindanao last Saturday, July 31, through the help of Bangsamoro Government’s Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs (MIPA).
The victims each paid Php35,000.00 to a recruiter who promised them a military training, one of the prerequisites to officially become a soldier in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). They stayed for five months in Bulacan province in Central Luzon, waiting for the training that did not happen.
The recruiter, who was also an IP, was a former AFP member.
“Pinangakuhan kami na pagkatapos naming maibigay ang pera ay sasabak na agad kami sa training, pero ilang buwan ang nakalipas ay napansin namin na wala na at di na nagparamdam sa amin ang tao na yun,” said one of the victims Benzar Cornelio, a Teduray from Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
He shared that they worked as construction workers in Bulacan to provide for their daily needs while waiting for the training.
“Noong mapanood natin sa national TV itong nangyari ay pagkakinabukasan ay umaksyon agad ang ating ministry sa pangunguna ni Minister Melanio Ulama para tingnan ‘yung kalagayan ng mga kabataang IP,” said Michael Garrigues, head of MIPA’s Ancestral Domain Section.
Through the assistance of San Jose Del Monte City police, MIPA helped the victims in filing a complaint at the city’s Brgy. Gaya-gaya wherein the recruiter promised to payback the fees he collected from the victims.
The ministry also facilitated the victims’ transport from Bulacan to Maguindanao, and provided them with foods and financial assistance.
“Kapag pursigido yung mga kabataan na magsampa ng kaso doon sa illegal recruiter ay pwede silang sumangguni sa ating opisina through our legal officer at gagabayan natin sila sa dapat nilang gawin,” Garrigues said.
“Malaking pasasalamat namin sa MIPA na nakauwi ng ligtas ang aming mga anak,” said Jose Timpadan, one of the victims’ father.
“At payo ko rin sa mga kabataan na ‘wag basta-basta magtiwala upang di mabiktima at mangyari sa inyo ang ganitong sitwasyon,” Timpadan said, adding that he had to pawn his farming land just so he can provide the Php35,000.00 fee for his son.
The victims also called on the AFP to help them be enlisted into the army. “Kami po ay humihingi ng tulong na makapasok bilang sundalo at matupad yung pangarap namin, dahil po sa ganitong paraan lang namin naisip na makakaahon po kami sa kahirapan” they said. (Bangsamoro Information Office)