Children of War

They are children of war, victims of war their innocent minds cannot comprehend.  But they know injustice has been to done their parents who did nothing wrong by helping the farmers, the workers, the poor.  
Even adults cannot comprehend why launching a fight against the causes of poverty and unrest is a crime.  And why one should be jailed for one’s political beliefs. 
Angel Lorenzo, 8 years old, studies at the Children of God Learning Academy; a child  seemingly forsaken by man’s folly.

She remembers when the bad guys came along, took her mother and left her with her one year old sister and their yaya to complete strangers.  How she cried and cried together with her sister.  Their yaya, terrified and confused, would not know how to console them.  They cried and cried until their grandmother arrived to take them.

That day, July 20, 2015, Joyce Latayan, 39, Angel’s mother, has just arrived home after picking her up from school.  She noticed two men in civilian clothes inside their compound.  Then she saw other plain- clothes men went up the second floor of their house.  They later came down with bags and a box of weapons, items which do not belong to Angel’s family.  They identified themselves as members of the Criminal and Investigation Detection Group (CIDG).

The men whisked Joyce away on the basis of a highly questionable and faulty search warrant issued from the Cabanatuan City Regional Trial Court and the box of weapons they were carrying.  She was charged with trumped up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which were later dismissed by the Prosecutor’s Office in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan where they reside.  

At about the same time, Angelika’s father, Ernesto Lorenzo, 59, was nabbed at the IT Center in Gilmore, Quezon City, by joint elements of the CIDG and members of the military intelligence group.  

Lorenzo is a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines with JASIG ID No.  ND978229 under the assumed name of “Lean Martinez”.  Lorenzo’s arrest was based on a warrant for destructive arson filed in 2010 in Lucena City.  He was among the activists and leaders of people’s oganizations in Southern Tagalog falsely charged with criminal offenses by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG).  In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Prof. Philip Alston had strongly recommended abolition of the IALAG and a stop to the practice of filing fabricated charges against activists.

Lorenzo was a youth leader of the Methodist Youth Fellowship and had been a long time pastor of the United Methodist Church after his studies.  Later he engaged in organizing work in the peasant communities and in socio-economic and development work among urban poor and workers.  He is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology–Special Intensive Care Area (BJMP-SICA) at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

“Magpakabait, mag-aral mabuti. (Be good, study well).”  This is Kennedy Bangibang’s perennial advice to his only son, Diwin Jude Kenn Monte Bangibang, 8 years old, whenever he visits him in the confines of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Tabuk, Kalinga, Cordillera.

A full-blooded Igorot who hails from a remote village in Cordillera, Kennedy was witness to the plunder of foreign corporations on their ancestral land and natural resources.  

As a student activist in 1987, he had immersed with the peasant masses. He later became a full-time  activist and revolutionary leader.  He was illegally arrested on February 23, 1913 by elements of the RIU-14 of the Philippine National Police-Intelligence Group while on board a bus at a PNP checkpoint in Bangao Proper, Buguias, Benguet.  Kennedy is a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Cordillera Affairs.  His arrest is a blow to the national minorities as their concern is among the issues to be tackled in the next agenda of the peace talks—the drafting of a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER).  

Victim of a justice system that grinds exceedingly slow, Kennedy has been languishing in jail for the past three years and his case being transferred from one court to another, from Kalinga to Baguio.

While Angel would bubbly narrate the happy moments with his father as they frolic on the beach of Pangasinan, where he used to work, Diwin would just matter-of-fact share memories of his Papa and Mama—the walks in the parks, the visits to the malls and the one time they went swimming in the underground river of Palawan.

Diwin’s Mama, Recca Noelle Monte, was a New People’s Army (NPA) fighter, who was killed during a military operation of the 41st Infantry  Battalion, 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on September  4 and 5 , 2014 at Guinginabang, Lacub, Abra.  She was unarmed and bore no gunshot wound indicating from the looks of her remains that she was tortured while held captive, a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law. 

Diwin could tell the state of his Mama’s remains without batting an eyelid—the traumatic injuries, crushed skull, unidentifiable face, broken leg bones.  Asked if he actually saw this, he said only from the picture.  The handsome, smooth pinkish face of the boy showed no emotion, but admitted he is sad and lonely.

Angel was loquacious and confident as she told her stories.  Her mother said she regained her composure with the psycho-social counselling she underwent after the trauma from her experience. 
Asked about her father’s work, Angel  quipped, “Natulong sa farmers at workers (helps farmers and workers)”.  Diwin has a similar impression of his parents’ work, “they were helping the farmers and the poor.”    

What do the children of war aspire to be when they grow up?  Angel said she will be a heart surgeon to help the sick.  Meanwhile, Diwin wants to be a lawyer, “so I could defend Papa and Mama. I could free Papa and give them justice.”###