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AFP slammed for killing women and children in Maguindanao

The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), a non-government organization helping children in armed conflict cope with trauma, today deplored the military’s aerial attack on civilians in Datu Piang, Maguindanao. As a result, at least 4 children and a pregnant woman were killed in the attack. “The women and children were already fleeing from the military operations in their barangay when they were hit. Would their lives be considered as mere collateral damage?” asked Ma. Esmeralda Macaspac, Executive Director of the CRC.

Macaspac also scored the military’s penchant for branding children they have killed in their operations as “child warriors”. She called the statement of Col. Marlou Salazar, commander of the 601st Brigade, “irresponsible and cowardly” as she pointed out that both of the children who were killed were all below 10 years old. “It is doubly appalling that the military persistently use the ruse of branding children as child warriors whenever they are made to account for their human rights violations. How can these young kids be mistaken for children warriors?”

She said that it is already inexcusable that the military continues to fail to draw the line between civilians and combatants in their military operations. “Many civilians have already been killed and hundreds of thousands more have been forcibly displaced by the military operations. Every time the government declares war, the civilians are the first to be killed and be displaced rather than be the first to be put to safety,” Macaspac said.

Macaspac said that the military officials as well as the troops involved in the killing should be made accountable for their human rights violations and justice should be served. She particularly cited the PAF 3rd Air Division who conducted the aerial bombings. “The AFP continues to escape accountability over child rights violations using the excuse of child warriors. Justice must not be blind to the children’s plight.”

The Children’s Rehabilitation Center through its Southern Mindanao office has provided psycho-social first aid activities in evacuation areas in Pikit, North Cotabato . The group will be joining the Inter-faith Mission together with other people’s and human rights organizations in Central and Western Mindanao by the end of the month. ###.