ABANDONED CHILD WARRIOR. The 17-year-old combatant rescued by the Philippine Army after rebels abandoned him during a clash in Hinabangan, Samar on Sunday (Nov. 3, 2019). Soldiers recovered firearms, several magazines, and ammunition, two backpacks containing personal belongings and subversive documents after the gun battle. (Photo courtesy of Army 801st Infantry Brigade)

TACLOBAN CITY — The Philippine Army has condemned the recruitment of teen warriors in Samar by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) following the rescue of a 17-year-old combatant after a clash Sunday night in Hinabangan town.

Army officials presented the young fighter identified as “Louie” (not his real name) to reporters during a press briefing late Wednesday afternoon at the Philippine Information Agency regional office here.

The rescued young fighter reunited with his parents again after he joined the armed struggle June this year. The young NPA member is now under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“Louie’s” mother turned emotional as she hugged her son for the first time after five months. “I never expected that he would join the NPA since he is a good son. He just told me that he would be in Manila for several months to work in a construction site,” she said.

The mother vowed to closely monitor all her children to protect them from the influence of the communist terrorist group.

The young man’s family is from Nabong village, Pinabacdao, Samar, a farming community just five kilometers away from the town center.

Nabong village chief Erlinda Macabenta was surprised that someone from their village was recruited by the communist terrorist group since there have been no sightings of armed rebels in their community for several years.

“We might come up with a forum with teenagers to warn them on the dangers if they would join the communist group,” Macabenta said.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Soldiers of the 801st Infantry Brigade rescued Louie carrying an M16 rifle after the NPA fighters abandoned him at the encounter site in upland Lim-ao village, Hinabangan, Samar on Sunday night.

The government troops recovered high-powered firearms, several magazines and ammunition, and two backpacks containing personal belongings and subversive documents.

The recovery of firearms and abandoning the teen warrior are proof that rebels suffered casualties during the clash, said Col. Camilo Ligayo, Philippine Army 801st Brigade commander.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said they will investigate to find out the extent of participation of the rescued minor in the communist group.

Included in the investigation is to determine who facilitated Louie’s recruitment, said Brig. Gen. Ariel Arcinas, BPNP Region 8 deputy regional director for administration. “It is for the court to determine if it is appropriate to file charges against him,” he added.

“Since he is a minor, he will undergo rehabilitation or intervention program which will be done by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.”

The Philippine Army said they are stepping up their operation to rescue more young fighters persuaded by the NPA to join the armed struggle against the government. (PNA)