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End tagging children victims of AFP as child soldiers; reprimand the perpetrators- child rights group

Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) raised alarm over the recent cases of children illegally arrested, tortured and even tagged as suspected members of the New People’s Army by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the province of Agusan del Sur.

“Just this month alone, three (3) children were added to the increasing cases of branding children victims of human rights violations as child soldiers. Like the previous cases under Oplan Bayanihan, these children were civilians and in fact victims of AFP’s rights violations” said Jacquiline Ruiz, CRC Executive Director.

Four Lumads in which three are minors were arrested last July 22 by elements of 26th Infantry Battalion and its paramilitary Bagani Force in the suspicion of being members of the NPA operating in Loreto, Agusan del Sur. Upon verification, it was proved that these children are civilians heading to Barangay Poblacion to register for the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections when the said military elements illegally arrested and continuously tortured them.

Moreover, the intensified military operations in Loreto continued, resulting to the forcible evacuation of around 423 individuals including 224 children last July 28.

“Like most cases, communities allegedly influenced by NPA were harassed, civilians were interrogated, arrested, tortured and tagged as members of the rebels, and it is saddening because children are not spared. The effect of these violations to the well-being of children is severe. Again, we are urging the Aquino government and the AFP to respect the rights of the civilians, especially children. The government must end its long practice of baseless tagging of children as child soldiers and reprimand the perpetrators,” Ruiz ended.###