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Duterte urged: Stop the all out war, pull-out military troops in civilian communities!

‘Stop the All Out War!’ this is the call of Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) Executive Director Jacquiline Ruiz after a spate of killings of children in Mindanao was documented in the course of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intensified military campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).


At the same time, Ruiz also challenged President Rodrigo Duterte not to coddle military elements accountable for killing civilians, following his statement assuring that military operations against the terrorist group are focused only on “selective targets” and that he will not allow civilians to be killed in the process.


‘President Duterte should practice what he preach! If he is sincere in his commitment, he should not treat erring soldiers with kid gloves while declaring civilian casualties as mere collateral damage,’ Ruiz said.


CRC expressed their alarm over numerous cases of extra-judicial killings and frustrated killings of children due to the ‘all-out war’ policy recorded in March of 2017, alone. On March 8, Nurmaida Abbi, a 1-year old girl, died on the spot after being hit by a bullet in the head when a composite team of the CIDG, PNP, and the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command indiscriminately fired at the houses of residents in Brgy. Tum-os, Tabuan Lasa, Basilan. The said state forces were pursuing the members of Abu Sayyaf when the incident happened. While on March 14, a 5-year old boy and a 13-year old girl were wounded during a clash between soldiers and members of Abu Sayyaf in Tongkil, Sulu.


‘We fear that innocent lives will further be claimed due to the Duterte government’s militaristic approach- portraying an utmost disregard of human rights,’ Ruiz emphasized. In both incidents, the military were tight-lipped and were suppressing information about civilian casualties.


‘We reiterate that based on the Philippine experience, no all-out war policy has neither resolved terrorism brought by ASG nor ended the decades-long armed resistance waged by the New People’s Army or the MNLF/MILF. Worse, all out wars have only resulted to various forms of grave child rights violations,’ Ruiz mentioned.


Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns also slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines over the killings of moro children and its attempt to cover up the incidents.


‘We denounce the AFP’s manner of justifying their crimes by labeling moro children killed as “children of Abu Sayyaf.’ This only condones the reign of impunity on military atrocities against civilians,’ said Salinlahi officer in charge Eule Rico Bonganay.


Bonganay also denounced the absurdity of the statement made by Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Galvez that they did not know about the presence of children in the area. “It is a known fact that children can be found everywhere in the Philippines! If they would just indiscriminately fire at a certain community, there is a very high probability that children might get hit,” exclaimed Bonganay.


CRC and Salinlahi appealed to President Duterte to immediately pull out military elements in moro, peasant and indigenous peoples’ communities and stop the all out war policy. “We call on president Duterte to command its armed forces to stop the all-out war! Duterte should stop condoning the atrocities of the military elements by holding the perpetrators accountable,” Bonganay ended.###