United Nations Undersecretary-General, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy is in the country, investigating charges that the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) recruits minors and sends them to the battlefields.
As far as the NDFP is concerned, and according to posts in its website, the NPA does not recruit children and the revolutionary movement does all that it can to protect the rights of children .
In the meantime, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) is submitting its own research into the issue of children in war and victimized by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
According the CRC, since 2001 there have been 66 children victims of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings , 49 children victims of frustrated killings, 50 documented cases of torture, 55 children illegally arrested and detained, and 63 victims of physical assault and injury by the AFP.
In the meantime, from January to October 2008, the number of displaced children in conflict areas in Mindanao has reached 258,000.
We hope that Atty. Coomaraswamy will be able to see through the propaganda of the Macapagal-Arroyo government that it is doing all that it can to protect and uphold the human rights of children. Every day, hundreds of Filipino children die of hunger and disease because the government refuses to reset its priorities from military and debt spending, to increasing allocations for public health, housing and education.
Because of the mercenary character of the AFP, even children are not spared in the military operations. As battalions of soldiers roam the countryside looking for the NPA, they target and attack the communities and very homes of civilians, regardless of whether there are children inside.
Children continue be traumatized by the mere sight of fully-armed soldiers in their schools and the immediate vicinity of their houses.
Children have been threatened and harassed by soldiers who, in their frustration and mindless fury at its failure to defeat the NPA, take out this same anger and frustration on the very young and innocent.
Children have been killed in cold blood in military operations, and their uniformed killers have had the temerity to declare that the blood they spilled belonged to legitimate combatants. Remember 9-year old Grecil buya, and remember how the monsters who took her life said that she had with her an armalite when she was shot. Grecil, spider-catcher, wannabe-dancer and a fan of Wowwowwee’s Willie Revillame…
True story: On April 3, 2007 in Lahong Interior, Balino, Masbate, six-year old Regine Bona was left to stay with her grandmother Minda as her parents went to a nearby barangay to sell their wares.
The following morning at 5am, Regine said that she wanted to go their house because her parents might have already returned. Her grandmother assented and let the little girl go.
After a little while, the grandmother heard a series of gunshots coming from the direction of Regine’s house. As soon as the firing stopped, she immediately went to Regine’s house, only to find the little girl lying dead behind cigarette cartons, her body bearing bullet wounds on her hip and torso. Bits of her flesh torn by the bullets also stuck to the walls of the house.
According to residents, before the shooting started, they saw elements of the Philippine Army in the area, and that the armed men stated their suspicion that there were members of the NPA inside Regine’s house.
The brutal killing of their daughter caused Regine’s parents to leave the barangay and settle elsewhere.
Heartbreaking, and yet so ordinary. One story among so many others. The Macapagal-Arroyo government’s soldiers leave a trail of blood and anguish wherever they go, and much too often it is the blood of children that stains the path the soldiers walk so carelessly as they mindlessly do the bidding of heartless government. What’s worse is that children themselves — their suffering and death at the hands of the military are being used in the governments campaign of lies.
This government under the kind of socio-economic, military and cultural system that’s in place now can never truthfully say that it upholds human rights, much less the rights of children who are always, always the hardest hit by whatever calamity the government inflicts on the Filipino people. The Arroyo government would not even admit responsibility for the almost 1000 extrajudicial killings of activists and human rights activists, or the more than 200 cases of disappearances of the same. Ilang bata ba ang naulila sa mga pagpaslang at mga pagkawalang ito?
And what does this government do? It gives medals to the likes of brutal monsters like Jovito Palparan and assigns the likes of war freaks and smooth liars Eduardo Ermita and Hermogenes Esperon to handles tasks related to the peace process with the revolutionary movement.