Children’s rights alliance KABIBA expressed today its alarm over the recruitment and use of children by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to boost its counter-insurgency campaign.
The earlier statement of Juve Latiban, a member of Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) who was captured by the New People’s Army on June 19 at Monkayo, Compostela Valley Province along with army Staff Sergeant Bienvenido Arguelles, that he was recruited and trained as CAFGU along with other 18 minors in the camp of 1001st Infantry Brigade-10th ID on 2008 when he was still 15 years old is an alarming proof.
For KABIBA, the incident is just a tip of the iceberg. There are still undisclosed incidents that the AFP is recruiting and using children as combatants.
KABIBA will focus its attention on this case as it is now working with its member organizations such as Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in implementing the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) of the United Nations which is a product of several years of focused attention on the plight of children affected by armed conflict.
The case of Latiban is not the first incident because previous MRM engagements had documented and reported that military personnel of AFP have been repeatedly involved in using children in military operations and recruiting minors into CAFGU in violations of Philippine national laws and international obligations applicable to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.
Previous incidents that had been verified and reported to the United Nations Security Council focused on armed conflict in the Philippines are the following: on December 2007, members of the 16th and 59th Infantry Battalions recruited on behalf of the CAFGU underage member of the indigenous tribe in Quezon Province and on January 2008, a 17-year old boy from Barcelona, Sorsogon was used by members of the 3rd Scout Rangers Battalions to carry their backpacks during military operations.
KABIBA is calling on the AFP to stop using children for military operations and propaganda. It is also calling for the transfer of custody of Latiban from 10th IDPA to his family for reintegration and return the minor recruited as CAFGU into civilian status, while posing a challenge to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to provide psychosocial treatment and support to the child.
KABIBA is also calling on the AFP to stop branding children victims of armed conflict as child soldiers such was the case Grecil Buya, a 9-year old girl who was killed when government troops clashed with NPA guerillas in New Bataan, Compostela Valley. Her body was photographed with a rifle and presented by the military to the media as that of an NPA child combatant. But Gen. Carlos Holganza, now 10th ID chief, retracted his statement about Grecil after he was proven wrong by Grecil’s parents and relatives, child-focused groups and Commission on Human Rights.#
Honey May Idul-Suazo
KABIBA Alliance for Children’s Concerns
Mobile Number: 09394501308