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Imprints of Violence: Shattered Lives and Disrupted Childhood

Children must always be seen as part of their sector. Their situation is mere reflection of their families’ and the society’s condition.

 

Approximately 43.34% or more than 40 million of the total 94 million population of the country is under the age of 18. Majority of them come from the families of peasants, workers and low-earning families in the urban areas thus majority of the Filipino children live in poverty.

 

With the continued adherence of the Philippine government to policies of liberalization of trade and investments, deregulation of economies, and privatization of government services, it is systematically violating the rights of the Filipino children.

 

With massive unemployment and underemployment due to lack of industries that will generate jobs, labor-export policies and national laws that enslave the Filipino work force, many children are forced to work at an early age to help augment their  parents’ low wages or lack of a job. More often they are left vulnerable to exploitation or pushed to engage with anti-social activities to survive.

 

The Aquino Government’s banner program Public-Private Partnership which supposedly aims to give relief to the toiling masses is in fact another burden for the Filipino family. Under the PPP 26 public hospitals are on the verge of corporatization which will only mean inaccessibility to health services for the majority of our children as these hospitals will be ran for profit and not for service provision. Conditional Cash Transfer, on the other hand, intends to buttress the government’s image to cover up the fact that it fails to address the basic fundamental issues of landlessness, unemployment, high prices of basic commodities and grossly inadequate social services. 

Moreover, children’s lives are shattered, marked or even taken by the direct attacks of the government’s armed force and its affiliates under the blanket of a counter-insurgency program called Operation Plan Bayanihan (Operation Plan Cooperation) or OpBay, patterned after the US Counter Insurgency (COIN) Program. While OpBay supposedly aims to quell insurgency, it mostly serves development projects (i.e. infrastructure and mining) of foreign big businesses in supposedly rebel-stronghold areas.

 

Bleak Future: Children’s stories under the Aquino Government

Amidst the different difficult situations, children and their families are struggling to fight for their rights and welfare. However, these are met by the government’s fascism and repression, thus human rights violations continue. 

Masking its vicious combat operations with people-centered and humanitarian approach, the Aquino Administration is trailing a bloody and terrifying path and not a righteous (matuwid) one. In his 27 months (July 30, 2010-October 2012) in office, Children’s Rehabilitation Center has documented numerous cases of human rights violations against children. 


Killing

 It was noted that during the first 18 months of the Aquino Government, there were two (2) documented cases of killing of children.  However, as the year 2012 started, more and more children became victims of killing. From January to October of this year alone, CRC has already documented eleven (11) incidents of killing involving twelve (13) children. Four (4) children were victims of massacre in two separate incidents, four (4) were arbitrarily killed, two (2) were killed during the assassination of their companion, two (2) were killed during a violent demolition and demolition related, and one (1) child died after being run over by a motorcycle driven by a soldier. 

Of the fourteen (14) children who were killed, half of them were Indigenous Peoples from Mindanao and Visayas where there are conflict between the AFP and other armed groups (NPA and BIFF) and areas where there is strong resistance to mining operations. Five children were from Luzon. Among the children killed, eight were aged 4 to 8 and six were aged 9 to 16. 

 

Labo Massacre

Richard Mancera, 7;  Michael Mancera, 10; their father Benjamin Mancera, 54; and “Ka Pedro”, a member of the New People’s Army who came to the Mancera’s home to rest in the kitchen, were killed after the elements of the 49th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IB PA) indiscriminately fired at the family’s house at Brgy. Malaya, Labo Camarines Norte on February 25, 2012 at around 1:00 in the afternoon. The family just had their lunch and was resting; Richard was playing while Michael was doing his homework when the volley of fire started towards the house. “Bebe”, the 14 year old daughter of Benjamin sustained wounds but survived the massacre. She is currently trying to rebuild her life with her mother while fearing for their lives, as there were attempts from the military to hide her and take her from the hospital.

 

Tampakan Massacre

On October 18 of this year, around 6:00 in the morning,  Pop Capion, 8; John Capion, 13; and their pregnant mother Juvi were killed when the 27th IB PA fired at their house in Tampakan, South Cotabato. The incident also wounded the five-year old daughter of the Capions.  The soldiers wouldn’t allow relatives to rescue the victims. Worse the bodies were dragged out of the house to compel the victims’ head of the family, Daguil to surrender.

The Capion family was firm in their opposition to the open-pit mining operation of Xstrata-SMI in their community.

 

Hunters Hunted

In the midnight of February 16 this year, Christian Noceto, 15, from  Majayjay, Laguna was killed along with his companion, Jaycee when the joint forces of the Special Action Unit of the AFP based in Candelaria, Quezon and elements of 1st Infantry Battalion open fired at them while they were hunting bats and frogs in the forested area in the boundary of Magdalena and Majayjay, Laguna. Also wounded were his two other companions, both minors. The military immediately released a press statement that they had killed members of the New People’s Army in an encounter. The relatives and the community firmly denied military’s accusation and expressed that the victims were all hunters.

 

Branding children victims of human rights violations as child soldiers

AFP is harping that there is an increase in the number of children who are considered to be child soldiers.  However, CRC has documented and verified a total of sixteen (16) children victims who are wrongly being branded as NPA child soldiers from 2010, seven (7) of them were documented this year. Most of the victims are from peasant communities where intensive military operations were conducted. Most of the time, these children are trying to work to contribute to their family needs when they were chanced upon by the military and were arrested, detained and branded as child soldiers. All of the victims experienced physical and psychological torture from the hands of the military. Three victims face charges such as violation of the Human Security Act, Illegal Possession of Firearms and Explosives, and Frustrated Killing. Two victims are still detained. 

Children victims of numerous human rights violations are further victimized when military tagged or branded them as NPA child soldiers to cover up their atrocities. These children are left with anxiety and uncertainty as they fear that they will be subjected to the same treatment as those of regular criminals.

 

Rape

In communities where there are military deployment and detachment, many women and young girls are deceived and fall victim to sexual violence. While deployed in communities supposedly to conduct peace and development activities, military men court these women and even young girls. They become enticed by the men in uniform as they are made to believe that they have a stable job. They are also impressed by their many travels and experiences which are far from the baryo life-style. They are often wooed by military men by befriending them, sending text messages and a promise of a good life.

CRC and other rights groups in the different regions have received anecdotal reports on teenage girls who were left behind by their military boyfriends, some of them already married, after getting them pregnant. Even worse, there are girls who end up being raped by their military boyfriends.

The case of “Cindy”, a 16 years old girl from Rizal Province, is a concrete example of how children are courted and then exploited. Last October 17, 2011 she was invited by soldiers to a party inside a military barracks together with her cousin and a friend. While there, they were given food and drinks. Cindy felt sleepy after eating. While unconscious, she was raped by three men, all of them elements of the 16th Infantry Battalion. After the incident, Cindy manifested “abnormal behaviors” prompting her family to bring her to a mental facility.

Another case is from Mankayan, Benguet. Two high school girls, “Katrina” and “Isabel” both 16 years old were wooed by Capt. Danilo Lalin from the 50th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army. “Katrina” was courted through text messages and later met Lalin in person and the latter became the girl’s boyfriend. Since then, the two were in a relationship and Lalin promised her of marriage. Being young, she listened to Lalin’s promises and disobeyed her parents who oppose their relationship and her frequent skipping of school.

Between February 17 -19 of this year, “Isabel” went missing. She arrived home only on February 20. When she got home, Isabel was too distraught about what transpired when she was gone. Few days after, her sister confronted Isabel about her whereabouts after she discovered tickets of Domestic Tourist addressed in Military Shrine Service in Camp Aguinaldo and contraceptives. Isabel confided that when she was gone, she was brought by Lalin to a Military Camp in Ifugao and raped her. She recalled that she was also brought to Taguig for medical check-up. Her sister observed that Isabel was profoundly distressed and looking dazed. Isabel’s family filed a case in Mankayan Police and brought her to the hospital for a medico-legal assessment. It was revealed that she sustained a complete hymeneal laceration on the second degree perineal lacerations. She was also diagnosed as mentally depressed.

 

Attacks on schools

Documented cases of attacks on schools by military troops have become more prominent this year.  With the deployment of military troops in communities under OpBay, the right to education of children is under attack. The right to education is a fundamental right of every child as proclaimed by international and local laws and statute. However clear these proclamations are, military blatantly violates these laws and continues to use school buildings, daycare centers and barangay halls as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots. In some cases, they build their detachment inside the school premises or a few meters away from the school such in Sadanga, Mountain Province and Paquibato District in Davao City endangering the young lives and causing fear to the parents and teachers as well.

In Las Navas, Northen Samar, Ormoc City and Ilocos Region occupation of day care centers were also documented. Children complained that during the military occupation on their schools, they used the walls as urinal and used its part as firewood. It disrupted classes as most of the children were afraid to attend classes because they saw military firearms hanging inside their classrooms. These early exposure to violence and constant terror has devastating psychological effects which can taunt their intellectual development-- a direct attack on children’s future.

Schools initiated and established by people’s organizations or communities were also frequently attacked by state forces. These are in the form of harassment of school personnel and students, tagging/vilification of these schools as fronts of the communists and were built by the NPAs. But the fact remains that these schools were established due to the incompetence of the government to provide for the education of these children. 

 

Forced Evacuation

With the ferocious military operations, 4,562 children (documented) have become victims of forced evacuation under the Aquino administration. Due to fear for their lives and safety as they experience harassments and threats from the military, families and even whole communities of indigenous peoples are forced to leave their homes and livelihood. It is important to note that most of the areas where perennial mass evacuation like communities in Andap Valley in Surigao, Agusan Provinces and Bukidnon also have mining operations or are target for mining explorations. Children belonging to these indigenous peoples’ communities experience discrimination and are rarely reached by social services and yet they are constant victims of massive and aggressive military operations.

 

Conclusion and Analysis

In summary, OpBay continues to wreak havoc to children, families and communities. All these continue with impunity as perpetrators have not been punished.  Uncounted lives have perished and are jeopardized in vicious and bloody manners directly from the claws of military operations. Children are not spared, innocents’ lives have been taken away, and their future became bleak. It is notable that the 14 children killed is 12% of the total 114 (documented by Karapatan) victims of extra judicial killings. With this number, it is ironic to say that they are mere collateral damage. Out of the documented cases against children, majority are from peasant communities.  Under Opbay, deployment of massive military troops in communities result to numerous human rights violations especially against children that is why CRC is steadfast in calling for the pull out of these troops from the communities

*Note: These data may be conservative as these only reflect cases against children reported, submitted to and documented by CRC. There are cases which remain unreported and undocumented as of this writing.

 

People’s Initiatives

As the government’s continuing systematic attacks on children rights, People’s organizations, non-government organizations are persistent in providing services and upholding the rights of these children.

In areas where social services from the government are rare, the people through their consolidated efforts have set up programs and services which serve the most marginalized of children. Unified action of lumad communities in Mindanao, and with help from non-government organizations, brought forth literacy-numeracy programs and alternative learning systems for the lumad children.

Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) provides services to children and their families who are victims of human rights violations. CRC, in its 25 years of existence, has been in the forefront in helping victims of state violence to overcome their experience by providing community-based intervention programs and counseling. They help children, who suffer physical health problems, emotional disorders and social maladjustments as a result of traumatic experiences as arrest, torture, disappearance, evacuation, extra-judicial killings and other forms of human rights violations.

Through projects and partnerships, CRC has been active in capacitating grassroots organizations to mitigate adverse effects of militarization and human rights violations in their community. It has provided psycho-social first aid and documentation trainings, aside from going directly to the communities and giving out much needed services first-hand.

In cooperation with Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, children’s issues and cases of grave rights violations are conveyed to the public through campaigns and advocacy works. Children are capacitated through educational discussions and trainings to become advocates of their rights.

 

References:

  • Karapatan Factsheet and supporting documents from July 2010 to October 2012.