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HRV’s against children continue to pile up with impunity as Aquino’s term ends

Annually, the world observes Human Rights Day during December 10 in tribute to the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nation (UN). In the Philippines, child focused organizations  including Children's Rehabilitation Center and SALINLAHI Alliance for Chidlren's Concerns take this opportunity to raise different societal realities that hamper Filipino children and their families realizing human rights.

Joining other human rights groups in commemorating International Human Rights Day, the aforementioned groups scored President Benigno Simeon Aquino III over his bloody rights record marked by rampant extrajudicial killings, rape, harassment, torture, massive displacement of peasant and indigenous communities, attacks on schools, among other state-perpetrated violations which gravely affect children.

‘Aquino and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are the main human rights violators,’ said SALINLAHI secretary general Kharlo Manano during a protest action today. According to him, from the very beginning of Aquino’s presidential term in 2010, twenty-eight (28) children have been killed by state security forces in the course of military operations. ‘In most cases, children were deliberately targeted in the pretext that these children were suspected members and/or supporters of armed groups,’ said Manano.

According to CRC Executive Director Jacquiline Ruiz, there are (7) children raped or gang-raped, twenty-three (23) tortured and thirty-one (31) children were falsely branded as ‘child soldiers’ after they fell victims to soldiers’ atrocities.

‘These cases give shape to the prevalence of injustice in our country. In spite of the local and international outcry and condemnation to such violations, cases continue to pile up with impunity,’ said Manano explaining that despite being signatory to the UDHR, the Philippine government fails to recognize and respect human rights.

The groups highlighted the issue of massive displacement and forcible evacuation of peasant and indigenous communities primarily incited by state-perpetrated violence, particularly in Mindanao. Nearly 65,000 individuals, half of it are children, have forcibly evacuated in fear of the military elements operating in their communities.

‘Massive exodus of Mindanao lumad is one of the major area of concern during the Aquino administration, many forcible evacuation lasted for a month while others have already reached 3-7 months and still hoping for their safe return,’ said Manano referring to the lumad evacuees in Davao City and Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

Citing a report from human rights watchdog Karapatan, Manano emphasized that during the month of November-December, there has been four (4) incidents of forcible evacuations due to military encampment in schools and communities. 

He also enumerated the latest number of individuals who are still staying in evacuation centers including the 807 Monobo (497 children) in Davao City, 1000 Manobo in Libak, Sultan Kudarat, 211 Mamanwa tribe in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, 150 in Kabangsalan, Bukidnon and more than 2600 in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

‘It is important to note that the lumad communities plagued by militarization are also the areas being targeted by the government for development projects such as mining, plantations and loggings. However, communities oppose these projects as it would further result to environmental degradation, economic displacement and cultural disintegration,’ Manano pointed out.

On the other hand, Ruiz explained that these distressed conditions bring about negative consequences to the development of chidlren. 'It most cases, children, either direct of indirect victims, are traumatized which gravely affect their daily routine, activities and participation in the communities,' she said.

During the protest, the child rights groups said that they will continue to demand justice and Aquino’s accountability even after his term.