By Alexander Lopez
BUTUAN CITY – The mother of a combatant of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) who died during the running gun battle along the border of Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Norte last May 10, has called on the rebels to stop recruiting young people.
Emily Hiponia, 52, a resident of Bonacao, San Fernando, Bukidnon arrived in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental on Friday afternoon after receiving reports that her daughter was among those who perished in a recent armed encounter in Sitio Likudon, Barangay Kamanikan, Gingoog City.
Gladys Joy Hiponia was killed along with 10 other rebels, the military said. Her identification card was recovered at the encounter site.
“We have not seen her for the last nine years,” Emily told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview on Saturday.
She also urged the young people within the NPA’s ranks to surrender to authorities and return to their families.
Emily said her daughter Gladys Joy was 19 and a third-year college student taking up Animal Science at the Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Bukidnon when she was recruited by the NPA.
“We have done everything just to stop her but failed. She was hard-headed and refused to listen to us. She went on and joined the rebels,” she said.
Emily said it was Gladys Joy’s father, Lardy, who was hurt most and angry when their daughter left.
“The anger of her father lingers. Until now he is still very angry why our daughter had chosen to join the NPA than listen to our advice,” she said, adding that her husband is the barangay chairperson in their hometown and that he is working to stop the recruitment of the NPA among the youth in their village.
Emily noted that Gladys Joy got married while in the movement and had a three-year-old son who is being cared for by her in-laws.
She added that her daughter’s husband, identified as Jake Lanting, surrendered in June last year.
“I am asking the NPA to stop (recruiting young people). They (the youths) will get nothing from what they are doing but death. It’s hard to die and be buried without your families,” Emily said.
1Lt. Roel Maglalang, the civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion, said Emily confirmed Gladys Joy’s identity through the photos of the cadaver provided by the military.
Maglalang said they also accompanied Emily to the public cemetery in Sitio Lingcomonan, Barangay Binakalan, Gingoog City where her daughter and the other bodies were buried last Wednesday.
“She was filled with emotion upon reaching the gravesite. We also extended our condolences to her and the rest of the family,” he said.
In a separate statement, 23IB commander Lt. Col. Francisco L. Molina Jr. thanked Emily and her family for coming out in the open and help the military identify her daughter.
“I am asking the people in the area to come to us. We need their information in the process of identifying the cadavers,” Molina said.
He also urged the remaining NPA combatants to come down from the mountains and surrender.
“We will not stop pursuing you. Think about your future and your family. You still have time to lay down your arms, abandon the NPA movement and go back into the folds of the law,” Molina said.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. (PNA)