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DOJ starts probe on recruitment of student-activist

The Department of Justice on Tuesday started its investigation into criminal charges against a congresswoman and officers of militant youth group Anakbayan over the recruitment of a senior high school student.

The police filed a complaint against Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares, former Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, and six others for kidnapping, child abuse, and trafficking. 

The charges alleged the respondents recruited a Far Eastern University student whose mother initially reported her missing.

The student has since surfaced and said she joined Anakbayan voluntarily and left home on her own volition. 

A preliminary investigation of the charges will lead to a determination whether prosecutors will file a case in court. The probe will resume on Sept. 10.

The Philippine Constitution protects the freedom of speech, expression, of the press and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. The anti-subversion law, which criminalizes mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), was repealed in 1992.

But Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a retired military general, has recently pushed for the revival of the anti-subversion law, a suggestion that was backed by the military.

Senator and former police chief Ronald dela Rosa, for his part, had launched an inquiry on minors who allegedly went missing after they joined left-leaning groups.

President Rodrigo Duterte proclaimed the CPP and its armed group, the New People's Army, as terrorist groups in 2017, but it would take a court to officially declare them as such in accordance with the Human Security Act, the country's anti-terrorism law.

The government petition seeking this has been pending before a Manila court for more than a year. — DVM, GMA News