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Unmasking the Government’s COPD, True essence endangers children

Quezon City, Philippines - Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) condemns atrocities of elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in two separate incidents in Mindanao.

In September 2, Sunshine Jabinez, a Grade 2 pupil of Biasong Elementary School in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, was killed after PFC. Baltazar Ramos of the Philippine Army’s 71st IB went amok and indiscriminately fired his gun while reportedly being drunk. 
The Children’s Rehabilitation Center - Southern Mindanao office conducted an initial investigation on the said incident.  According to Sunshine’s parents, their daughter was sleeping inside their house when she was hit and cried “agay”. The perpetrator is a member of the Bravo Company of the 71st Infantry Battalion Philippine Army under 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Pantukan, Compostela Valley conducting “peace and development activities” of the government’s program in the area.

In Agusan del Norte, 46 Mamanwa families and 60 peasant families including children and teachers from the village of Zapanta Valley in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte fled from their community due to fear, after they heard series of gunshots from the military elements belonging to 402ndID and 30th IB PA who arrived a day before. They walked 9 kilometers to seek refuge in the nearby Barangay Bangayan and Canaway bringing only few of their belongings. On September 2, the military operations continued, two helicopters were heard firing towards the mountainous area which brought terror to the evacuees especially the children. The same group of families evacuated from their community last May 2011 and had returned to their respective houses on July 15 after the military left their community.

These incidents involved military units who are part of the Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) of the US-patterned counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan (OPB) of the Aquino administration where military troops stay in the community and conduct military operations. This operation plan is thinly masked with peace and development activities and aims to defeat the CPP-NPA-NDF by winning the hearts of the people.   

“Sunshine’s death, fear in the Mamanwa children’s eyes and the innocence lost from many other children victims of human rights violations   only unmask the dreadful OPBAY” said Jacquiline Ruiz, Executive Director of Children’s Rehabilitation Center. Peace and development is partnered with continuous aggressive presence of the soldiers in the communities instill fear to the children and residents, disrupting their schooling and economic activities, Ruiz added.

In addition, Ruiz cited that in 2011 CRC documented cases of soldiers staying in the community making the barangay halls as their camp which in rural areas also serve as day care centers. Reported cases stated that soldiers leaving their fire arms hanged in the comfort rooms of the barangay hall in one of the towns in Ilocos Sur resulted to children holding their urine and forcing them to urinate inside the classroom.

The April 2011 report of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly, affirmed that on 2010, most of the documented and verified cases were perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He also cited that the government’s war against the communist rebels through the counter-insurgency program permits and directly targets civilians, especially children who are vulnerable to violations.

“As the children’s month commemoration on October nears, the Aquino government’s commitment to protect and uphold children’s rights is yet to be proven. We urge Pnoy to do necessary actions to incarcerate the perpetrators thus end the culture of impunity and stand by genuine peace by upholding children and human rights and not by implementing deceptive counter insurgency programs”, Ruiz concluded. ###