By Freddie G. Lazaro
*Army officials condemn this act of child exploitation,
vow to stop it to protect the youth in Ilocos Sur
SANTA CRUZ, Ilocos Sur, Sept. 5 (PIA) — The 81st Infantry (Spartan) Battalion of the Philippine Army based here condemned the New People’s Army (NPA) for allegedly recruiting children for their combat operations against government troops.
A recent PA statement said that child warriors are being used by the NPA group: PLATUN South Ilocos Sur (SIS) in their armed struggle against government troopers.
NPA rebels, who were captured during the Army’s encounters with guerillas in Salcedo and Sigay towns recently, have revealed that most members of the PLATUN SIS were aged 21 years old and below.
There are some that aged from 16 to 17 years old.
Army Infantry said these child warriors were newly recruited by the PLATUN group through Ideological Political Organizational works and they were used as members of the armed group that operates in the Triple S (Santa Cruz, Santa Lucia and Salcedo) Complex of South Ilocos Sur.
The NPA thru spokesperson “Ka Rosa Guidon” contradicted the Army officials’ allegation on child rights violation.
In a press statement dated Sept. 16, 2017, emailed to all media outlets including this paper by Ka Rosa Guidon, a major part of it is hereby quoted: “The 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention and the 1989 United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sets the minimum age to 15 years old.”
(The above NPA reaction is published for the sake of balanced reporting. –Ed)
“These circumstances are indicative that the NPA violates the laws that safeguard the rights of children, particularly Republic Act 7610 which punishes ‘any person who commits any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or to be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development’,” said Major General Angelito De Leon, AFP, commander of 7th Infantry Division.
“It is also a violation to the signed agreement, Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), that these rebels are recruiting child warriors or minors to join them in their armed struggle and allowing them to take part in fighting,” De Leon said.
He added, “We will further strengthen our intelligence and civil military operations so that these activities will stop.”
Col. Henry Robinson Jr. (MNSA) PA, 702nd brigade commander, said that the revelation of the captured rebels prompted them to communicate with the different sectors that handle the youth, most especially the educational institutions.
Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV INF (GSC) PA, battalion commander of 81st Infantry Battalion said, “With the current revelation, we, your Army will further enhance our engagements with the youth sector through different activities that will be conducted by the Civil Military Operation group.”
“Moreover, we are verifying the identities of these minors so that their respective families will be notified to help the government in persuading their kin to leave the armed struggle,” Osias added. (Freddie G. Lazaro/PIA-1, Ilocos Sur)