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A year after Grecil Buya's tragic death: children still in a very dangerous condition under a deceitful government

A year has passed since the death of Grecil Buya and still, children who were victims of militarization are growing. Children's lives are endangered due to anti-children policies brazenly implemented by the government. This is according to Children's Rehabilitation Center (CRC), a child rights organization in Southern Mindanao.

If we recall last March 31, 2007, a 9 year-old girl named Grecil Buya was presented to the media by the 67th IBPA of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a 12 year-old boy and an NPA child-combatant killed in action.

They said that the frail Grecil was seen carrying an M-16 (taller than her) and was very good in maneuvering. All these incredible allegations were belied by Grecil's parents, classmates and friends. A month after the incident, even the military conceded that Grecil was indeed a civilian and not a combatant. The Commission on Human Rights XI, on its part, vindicated the perpetrators by justifying Grecil's death as collateral damage.

Mr. John Birondo, CRC advocacy officer, stressed that their organization has already documented numerous children's rights violations this year. "From January to March 2008 alone, CRC has already documented 423 children-victims of intensified military operations launched by the government. This is in cognizance of the all-out war counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo Administration". He added that more cases of children's rights violations are still undocumented.

The children in militarized areas greatly suffer emotional and psychological traumas and worsen by the absence of psycho-social intervention from government agencies with programs supposedly for these children.

Children are continuously killed in military offensives launched by the government such as what recently happened in Sulu, were two children including 5 other civilians were massacred by government troops in their pursuit of alleged terrorists. "The AFP continuos to use its worn-out excuse of legitimate encounter in justifying these killings and divert the issue of violations commited by invoking the concept of collateral damage as what happened to Grecil Buya".

By putting the all-out war policy way ahead of social service as one of the top programs of the government will definitely worsen the conditions of children and put them in grave danger, thus rapidly increasing the numbers of the child victims.

The rights of every child to survive and be protected are still uncertain up now, greatly hindering their full development to participate in improving the society. "The government should and must be true to its mandate when it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It must be sincere in upholding the rights of the children and protecting them from inhumane situation" Birondo said.

He added that justice must be served for the family of Grecil Buya and all the children who were victims of children's rights violations especially those perpetrated by government forces.###