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Military presence in Northern Samar jeopardize children's rights

 

Quezon City, Philippines, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) strongly condemns the human rights violations perpetrated by the elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines affecting the lives of hundreds of children in Barangay, Hinagunoyan and other nearby barangays in Catubig, Northern Samar.

 

CRC participated in a National fact Finding Mission conducted in some Barangays of Catubig and Las Navas, Northern Samar including Barangay Hinagunoyan  last January 11-15 to facilitate children’s activities. “The children’s reactions of running towards their houses while covering their ears when a military chopper passed by the activity area was alarming. Children in these areas have been subjected to continuous stress due to the presence of military in their daycare centers and community centers” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Information and Publicity Staff of CRC who joined the mission. During the processing, children shared that the killing of Jovito Pajanustan leaving his six children orphaned and other cases of torture perpetrated by the military have made them feel anxious. They fear that such violations may also be done to them or their family members. As a result children are prevented from playing outside their houses. Some of the children have also stopped going to school because military are in their day care centers and/or they are brought by their parents in the fields to feel secure.

 

In addition, reports have reached the CRC national office that on January 29, 2012, a couple with their 2-year old and less than a year old children were taken by elements of the 34th Infantry Battalion on board a military helicopter and was brought to Palapag, Northern Samar where the battalion headquarters of the 34th Infantry Battalion is located. The same military unit forcibly brought five (5) residents of Barangay Hinagunoyan to the battalion headquarters on January 28, 2012. Reports confirmed that the victims were barangay officials and “Lupon” members.

 

“The encampment of the military in day care centers directly violates the children’s right to education. Moreover, the distress that military presence and atrocities have brought the children of Hinagunoyan and nearby barangays, has affected their psychosocial development rendering them frightened and insecure in their own communities. Needless to say, the recent abduction of a family in the area affirmed the children’s fear that even them are not spared from the violence of these military operations” said Ms. Jacquiline Ruiz, Executive Director. Reports indicated that these incidents involved military units who are part of the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) where military troops stay in the community in the guise of peace and development activities but resulted to numerous children’s rights violations.

 

CRC is calling for the genuine commitment of the Aquino government for children’s rights by immediately releasing the children, their family and the other abducted individuals and by ensuring that daycare centers and other institutions in the community essential for children’s development are free from any kind of military presence.##