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Child rights group hits military ops targeting civilians, children

A group advocating for the rights and welfare of Filipino children vehemently condemned the elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the grave violations of children’s rights in Mindanao recently. ‘In its failure to quell insurgency in the war-torn island, the government forces resorted to ‘cowardly acts’ of targeting civilians and even children,’ said Jacquiline Ruiz, executive director of Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC).

According to Ruiz, ‘condemnable cases of grave child rights violations which include killing, maiming and false branding of children as child soldier have been committed by military elements operating in the regions of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley between the months of January and February.

Last January, a 15-year old student of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center was killed by a member of paramilitary group Alamara in Sitio Laslasakan, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte. The said killing has forced teachers, students and villagers in Sitio Laslasakan and nearby sitios to evacuate their communities.

On February 9, the indiscriminate bombing and firing of villages and residential houses launched by elements of 46th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Diat, Post 4, Brgy. Napnapan Pantukan, Compostela Valley resulted to the killing of a small scale miner and injury to a 14-year old boy who was falsely tagged by the military as an NPA child soldier. The boy was arrested and brought to the headquarters of the Eastern Mindanao Command today in Camp Panacan, Davao City.  

Ruiz mentioned that the United Nations Security Council has identified six grave child rights violations which consisted of killing and maimingrecruitment or use of children as soldierssexual violenceattacks against schools or hospitals, abduction and denial of humanitarian access for children.

‘During the Aquino administration, we have documented 29 children killed, 7 raped or gang-raped, twenty-three (23) tortured and thirty-two (32) children were falsely branded as ‘child soldiers’ after they fell victims to soldiers’ atrocities,’ added Ruiz

The Aquino administration failed to adhere to local and international instruments protecting the rights of civilians, especially children, in the context of armed conflict. ‘Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan do not distinguish civilians and combatants. Soldiers occupy schools and communities tagged as rebel-stronghold areas, subjecting villagers to harassment and malicious accusations; and indiscriminately firing and bombing their houses which result to loss of life and unnecessary injury and suffering among civilians,’ she ended.