Army strives to end recruitment of child soldiers

BY: April M. Bravo, PIA Ilocos Sur

SANTA CRUZ, Ilocos Sur — The 81st Infantry (Spartan) Battalion of the Philippine Army based here condemned the New People’s Army (NPA) for allegedly recruiting children for combat until now.

A recent statement said that child warriors are being used by the NPA group: PLATUN South Ilocos Sur (SIS) in their armed struggle against government troops.

NPA surrenderers, who were caught during the Army’s encounters with rebels in Salcedo and Sigay towns recently, have revealed that most members of the PLATUN SIS were ages 21 years old and below.

There are some that ages from 16 to 17 years old.

Accordingly, these child warriors were newly recruited by their group through Ideological Political Organizational works and they were used as members of the armed group that operates in the Triple S (Santa Cruz, Santa Lucia and Salcedo) Complex of South Ilocos Sur.

“These circumstances are indicative that the NPA violates the laws that safeguard the rights of children, particularly Republic Act 7610 which punishes ‘any person who commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or to be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development’,” said Major General Angelito De Leon, AFP, commander of 7th Infantry Division.

It is also a violation to the signed agreement, Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), that these rebels are recruiting child warriors or minors to join them in their armed struggle and allowing them to take part in fighting,” De Leon said.

He added, “We will further strengthen our intelligence and civil military operations so that these activities will stop.”

Col. Henry Robinson Jr. (MNSA) PA, 702nd brigade commander, said that the revelation of the former rebels is necessary to communicate to the different sectors that handle the youth, more especially in educational institutions.

Further, Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV INF (GSC) PA, battalion commander of 81st Infantry Battalion said, “With the current revelation, your Army will further enhance the engagements with the youth sector through different activities that will be conducted by the Civil Military Operation operators.”

Moreover, we are tracking down the identities of these minors so that their respective families will be made aware and vigilant for them to help the government in persuading their kin to leave the armed struggle,” Osias added. #