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Child Soldiers Label used by the Military to Escape Accountability over Cases of Children Victims of Human Rights Violations

Obedient, playful and fun-loving. These are characteristics typical of rural children like Grecil Buya Galacio, 9 years old. She had cherished the start of the summer vacation because this meant days of helping her mother in her house chores, playing with her younger siblings, and swimming in the nearby creek. But on that fateful day of March 31, 2007, Grecil’s childhood had ended.

Members of the 28th and 67th Infantry Brigade based in Compostella Valley had shot Grecil during an encounter with members of the New People’s Army in Purok 6, Barangay Kahayag, New Bataan. With no remorse, the military immediately branded Grecil as a 'child soldier' of the NPA as if labeling their victim as such could exenorate them from the accountability of such a gruesome act.

As an alliance of organizations concerned with the rights and welfare of children, Salinlahi issues the highest condemnation against this act by the government military troops especially since this is not the first time that they used the excuse of children being “child soldiers’ in violating children’s human rights.

  • In February last year, the military arrested 12 youths, 2 of them minors, who were bound to watch a rock concert in Baguio City. The youths were detained for months and were charged with rebellion.
  • A 14 and 15 -year old High School students, Aileen and Marjorie were shot in their thighs and injured in Baggao, Cagayan by members of the 21st IB PA. They were also branded as "NPA amasona’s" and charged with rebellion. They now fear that they could not continue their studies with a case filed against them.
  • 3 youths, Jefferson, Kennedy and Joey, all 15 years old, were gathering coconuts when they were chanced upon by members of the 76th IB PA in Lopez, Quezon. They were tortured to force them to admit that they were members of the NPA. They were also charged with rebellion.
  • 5 minors have been arrested and placed in the custody of the DSWD for being in a house where alleged NPA leaders were caught in Eastern Visayas
  • 11 minors were arrested in Basilan while tending their farms. They were branded as Abu Sayyaf members and were detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan for more than 3 years now.

These cases make up only part of the hundreds of cases of children victims of human rights violations since Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came into power in 2001. There are 54 cases (49 of which are well-documented) of children killed by the military during operations. Till now, justice for these children has not been served. We cannot help but conclude that these acts are intentional and systematic rather than isolated. These are acts consistent with the AFP’s Malacanang-approved counterinsurgency plan known as Oplan Bantay Laya 2. The government chooses to hide behind the distorted concept of "child soldiers" against the children they have victimized. Instead of protecting children, this concept exposes children all the more to violence and makes them vulnerable targets of human rights violations. For a government who is signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and boasts of laws and policies that promotes the best interest of the child, this is utter hypocrisy. Pres. Arroyo, a woman and a mother, continues to ignore the issue of blatant human rights violations and instead chose to heap praises on military officials who are accused as perpetrators. We challenge the Arroyo government to show its sincerity in upholding children and human rights by dropping all rebellion charges against children and minors. We hold it accountable for the destruction of these children’s lives and future. We urge child rights advocates, including politicians running for office, to condemn this brutal act and join us in our actions on the case. We will support the family in their pursuit for justice as they file a case in a proper regional trial court. Likewise, we will also file a complaint at the Commission on Human Rights and the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the CAHRIHL and present the case to the Geneva Committee on the Rights of the Child and to Mr. Philip Alston, the UN Rapporteur for Extra Judicial Killing. We urge all decent and peace-loving Filipino family to support our call for JUSTICE FOR GRECIL and all other children and minors who are deceitfully branded as child soldiers. Let us not tolerate the rampant violation of children’s rights, especially by the very institutions that vow to protect them. Let us instead be instruments in building a just and peaceful future for our children.

JUSTICE FOR GRECIL AND ALL CHILDREN VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!

PUNISH ALL THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WRONGFUL DEATHS AND ARRESTS OF SO-CALLED CHILD SOLDIERS!

PROTECT CHILDREN’S LIVES AND UPHOLD THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS!