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Child Rights Group: List the AFP as Persistent Perpetrator, Resume with Peace Negotiations!

The ever increasing number of children victims of human rights violations during President Noynoy Aquino’s administration is alarming. Children from rural communities continue to suffer from varying forms of violence perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In the recent United Nations Security Council Report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated concern over the continued use of children as guides during military operations of the AFP and the shaming done to victims through presentation of the latter to members of the press, while labeling them as members of armed groups.

One of the recent cases documented by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), that of a16-year old boy from Trento, Agusan del Sur who sustained a wound in his left thigh after the soldiers from 25th and 75th Infantry Battalion dropped bombs in their community, showed atrocities of the AFP which spare no one. The boy was arrested by the soldiers after he got to the evacuation center where his family and other community members sought refuge. The boy was photographed and presented to the media, branding him as member of the revolutionary group, New People's Army (NPA).

The CRC is expressing its deep concern over these alarming cases of children victims of human rights violations. In 2012 alone, CRC documented (12) cases of killing, (4) children used as guides in military operations, (10) children arrested, detained and tagged as members of the New People's Army (NPA) and hundreds of children affected by the continuing attacks and encampment of the AFP to their schools.

Ms. Jacquiline Ruiz, Executive Director of CRC stated, “These human rights violations committed by the state forces against children, their families and their communities show that the Aquino government is far from being serious in protecting the safety and welfare of children, much more of upholding their rights because in the cases we documented, the government military (AFP), themselves, are the violators.”

“These cases are not isolated because it is happening all over the country; Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” continued Ruiz. She cited the case of (4) boys from North Cotabato, in two separate incidents, who have experienced threats from members of the 57th Infantry Batallion and later used as guides in their military operations. Meanwhile, a 16 year old boy from Quezon Province was arrested by the 74th Infantry Battalion and detained for a fabricated case, for almost 11 months in a government institution. The boy was an ordinary farmer looking for his livelihood and was illegally arrested and alleged to be a member of the NPA. In Negros Occidental, (3) boys from an Indigenous group were arrested and detained for two days along with other (16) farmers, and were branded as members of the NPA when the AFP retaliated in their community after an encounter with the NPA.

“Children victims bear the brunt of being direct or indirect victims. They are harassed, threatened, forced as guides, displaced, maimed, raped or killed and later on branded as child soldiers as an excuse of the AFP for the violations they have done. The Aquino government has no further response but to “look into allegations” and recite their policy of non-employment of children in their military operations while destroyed lives of the victims, injustice as perpetrators remained unpunished and continued violations of children’s rights tell a different story,” reiterated Ruiz.

The systematic arrest, detention and tagging of children plus other forms of human rights violations are deemed to be part of the counter insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino government. “CRC has made a stand before, together with advocates of children’s rights and everyone who respects and upholds human rights that the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) or Oplan Bayanihan be scrapped. It has brought nothing but deaths, harm and trauma among children and their communities as we have documented.” Ruiz explained further.

CRC is also strongly calling for the United Nations to look into the AFP as one persistent perpetrator. Ruiz articulated, “The cases we documented and verified through fact finding missions and similar activities proved that there is a pattern of committed violations on human rights by the government troops. Does the persistence of the AFP’s children’s rights violations and its effects on hundreds of children in the country, not enough to include them in the UN’s list of shame?”

Moreover, CRC enjoins advocates of human rights, children’s rights and of peace to call on the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and end the conflict through proper resolution of the roots of poverty. CRC looks for sincerity and genuineness from the Aquino government to uphold just and lasting peace for the future of the Filipino children.###