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The Armed Forces of the Philippines consistently sings the same old tune as excuse for their merciless actions

The AFP is again using their same old lines of “collateral damage” and tagging children as “child soldier”, as alibi to escape from accountabilities of violating children’s rights.                   

These lines were again used by the AFP particularly by Col. Marlou Salazar of the 601st Brigade and Maj. Gen. Hernanie Perez of Philippine Air Force 3rd Air Division after the September 8 incident when 6 person including 4 children with an age range of 2 years old to 10 years old, were killed after an OV-10 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force randomly bombed the civilians who were on board a motor boat, evacuating from their community in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

The AFP is habitually known of using it as an excuse every time they commit atrocities against civilians especially children, just like what happened to Grecil Buya, the 9 year old girl child whom they killed and tagged as child combatant . They alleged that Grecil was doing a maneuver with an M16 riffle while shooting at the soldiers. When their allegation was proven wrong by the parents and friends of Grecil, they immediately justified that Grecil was just caught in crossfire of a legitimate encounter between the AFP troops and the NPA, thus making her a collateral damage.

The lives of civilians especially the children are put into grave danger with these arrogant yet cowardly excuses. These would mean that children will become legitimate targets of the government troops who are already known of their cold blooded human rights and children’s rights violations. The arbitrary military actions that the AFP launched and to be launched will continue thus, there will be no distinction between their armed enemy to the civilians. In fact, these scenarios are already happening in Mindanao amidst the escalation of the military offensives ordered by President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo.

Based on report, there are already 21 civilians killed including 7 children and 13 others including 7 children were wounded due to indiscriminate firing and indiscriminate artillery shelling and bombings perpetrated by the government troops particularly under the 601st Brigade.

The present all out war of the Arroyo administration in Central Mindanao has already affected and displaced more than 360,000 Moro and Christian individuals and they are still increasing. 

We, together with other child rights organizations held the Arroyo government liable for the escalating conflict in Mindanao which only victimized civilians especially women and children.

As civil society organization, we demand justice and indemnification for the victims brought about by the callous actions committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the leadership of President Arroyo. Prosecution should undertake to those who are liable for violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

We challenge the Commission on Human Rights under the leadership of Commissioner de Lima to conduct a speedy and impartial investigation on the death of innocent civilians particularly children and to the other human rights violations, and to file appropriate charges to the perpetrators.  

The government forces as well as the MILF forces should stand firm in protecting the civilians especially the children, in undertaking military action by observing and respecting the protocols of war as stipulated in the Geneva Conventions.

The government should be serious in realizing its mandate in protecting the children as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which the Philippine Republic ratified, by means of initiating the resumption of peace talks with the MILF.

We call for the stoppage of war in Mindanao and for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

CRC-Southern Mindanao Regional Office