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Callous to kids’ plight

This refers to the front-page photo, titled “Children of War,” in the Sept. 20 issue of the Inquirer.


While it is true that Zamboanga children remain cheerful and optimistic, the picture also brings to mind President Aquino’s failed promise of peace in Mindanao, made to the thunder of his “daang  matuwid” rhetoric. To be sure, behind the children’s smiles and laughter are memories of dreadful experiences that thousands of civilians in Zamboanga City experienced.


The standoff between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) devastated the lives of the people in Zamboanga City, especially the children. Since Sept. 9, when the siege started, seven civilians have been killed. Hundreds of people have been held captive by the MNLF, some of them used as human shields. Worth mentioning of the case of Jomie Eithan, a two-year-old boy who died when a bullet hit his head as the MNLF used him as a shield, together with his parents. During the firefight, nothing could be seen but the disturbing images of children scared and crying. In the evacuation centers, children felt even more insecure and helpless, having to contend with the lack of food and water, with poor sanitation and with the uncertainty of how long they would stay as refugees.


Houses and establishments were looted and burned; public infrastructure, such as schools, were turned into evacuation centers and into military posts even. Moreover, economic activities were halted, if not totally destroyed.


Instead of heeding the cries of the children and bringing the firefight to an end, the President himself went to Zamboanga City to intensify the armed pursuit of the MNLF by thousands of government troops, engaging them in battle without considering the lives of the people and the children.


It is very saddening that the failed efforts of the Aquino administration to open the door for the resumption of peace negotiations with the MNLF and to fully recognize the right of the Moro people to self-determination have resulted in continuing violence. This and past administrations have only a militaristic approach to resolving the ongoing conflict, proving their callousness and disregard of the importance of the peace process.


Our children deserve to enjoy their rights and full protection and these the government is duty-bound to ensure. They should be playing, studying and living in a community where peace reigns, not in constant sorrow and fear brought about by militarization.


The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), an organization dedicated to protecting and defending children’s rights and welfare, is calling the administration to ensure the welfare of the civilians in Zamboanga City, especially the children, by halting its military combat operations against the MNLF and widely opening the door for the resumption of peace negotiations with the MNLF. We encourage the administration to do the same with other groups, such as the National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.



executive director,

Children’s Rehabilitation Center,



Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/62153/callous-to-kids-plight#ixzz3AitI1zx5