UN voices concern over child warriors in PHBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — Some 26 children were recruited as soldiers, messengers and informants in conflict zones while dozens of other minors were slain and maimed in militant attacks and gunfights in the Philippines last year, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said in a report.
In the report “Grave violations committed against children in 22 situations of concern” released on June 12, Ban expressed concern over the use of children as operatives, informants and messengers in conflict areas, recruited by terror groups, militant organizations and even state agents.
The report specified the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Philippine military as those involved in using children in their operations.
“During the reporting period, the country task force recorded 11 incidents of recruitment and use of children, involving 23 boys and 3 girls between 12 and 17 years of age,” read Ban’s report, which the UN publicly released last week but was first reported to the UN Security Council on May 15.
Culled by a UN country task force, the confirmed cases represent a decrease in child involvement in conflict but the world body remained concerned that minors are at all involved.
“That figure represents a decrease in 2012, given that there were 26 incidents affecting 33 boys and 21 girls in 2011. Of those cases, two were reportedly recruited and used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), 11 by the NPA, 11 by the Abu Sayyaf Group and two by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” said Ban.
The UN meanwhile counted 66 cases of killing and maiming of children, including 29 child deaths and 37 cases of injured children. The AFP was implicated to be behind 14 cases, the MILF in four, the NPA in three and the ASG in one incident.
“There were no clashes between the national armed forces and the MILF. Most cases involving the Front related to internecine conflicts within Moro communities. During the reporting period, NPA conducted high-profile attacks on the national armed forces, often at the cost of the civilian population,” the UN report said.
Among the confirmed cases of child recruitment include the MILF’s continued provision of “training, weapons and uniforms to children and to use them as guides, messengers and porters.” One in particular was a case of a boy, 16, and a girl, 17, recruited by the group’s 103rd Base Command in Lanao del Sur Province and trained in martial arts and weapons maintenance, the report said.
The ASG was meanwhile tagged in two incidents in which 11 boys aged 13 to 16 were recruited. One of the 13-year-olds was killed in Sumisip, Basilan on Sept. 14, 2012 during an encounter with the military. He was armed with an M-203 grenade launcher at the time, the UN said.
The NDFP meanwhile acknowledged using minors for non-combat purposes, the UN said.
“The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political wing of NPA, continued to claim that it did not recruit children as combatants, but admitted that it recruited, trained and used them for non-combat purposes. Children continued to be killed and injured as a result of their affiliation with NPA in 2012,” Ban’s report read.
He also said the world body “remained concerned over the use of children by the national armed forces as guides and informants during military operations.”
One confirmed case was recorded in July 2012, when the 57th Infantry Battalion “forced two boys aged 12 and 13 years to serve as guides to locate an NPA camp in North Cotabato Province.” The military initiated an investigation of this case in March of this year.
“During the reporting period, it was also observed that the national armed forces continued to release names and pictures of children to the media, labelling them as members of armed groups,” Ban’s report further noted.
The UN also expressed concern over the military’s use of schools as temporary stations in conflict areas, including a confirmed case of a military detachment at a school in Tugaya town, Lanao Del Sur in June last year, which disrupted classes for two weeks.
Ban meanwhile noted the Philippine government’s initiatives to prevent child recruitment, injury and death in conflict zones, saying: “I am pleased to note that the Government is finalizing the implementation of the monitoring, reporting and response system to prevent and respond to specific incidents of grave violations against children.”
He also took note of the military’s prohibition against involving children in conflict operations and the drafting of guidelines regulating the use of schools in live military missions.
The annual report put together incidents of recruitment and use of children and acts of violence against minors in 22 countries with ongoing conflict, including countries with unsettled civil strife such as Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel.