3 ‘child soldiers’ captured in an armed encounter in Bukidnon

As proven by the recent capture of three child soldiers in San Fernando, Bukidnon, the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) continues to violate children’s rights.

The three minors were among ten NPA rebels captured during an armed encounter in a forested area in Barangay Mabuhay between soldiers from the 88th Infantry Battalion and more than 20 guerrillas from the Platoon 1 of Guerilla Front Malayag of the Sub Regional Committee 2 of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.

On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), denounced the NPA’s willful violation of children’s human rights and International Humanitarian Law in recruiting minors.

He went on to say that minors are dragged into armed warfare without their consent.

According to Brawner Jr., the three child soldiers are fortunate because government troops were able to save them from a violent path and communist terrorists’ abuse by using them for a violent cause despite their young age.

“The NPA allowing minors to be with the group of armed men has clearly disregarded the safety and welfare of the children. Instead of protecting them, let them go to school and enjoy their childhood, the NPA tramples children’s rights by continuing to recruit minors who they can easily take advantage of and who are easily swayed by their false promises to join their senseless cause,” Brawner Jr. said.

Children are designated as “zones of peace” under Republic Act 11188, the “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act,” which aims to protect children in situations of armed conflict from all forms of abuse and violence, including recruitment of children into government armed forces and other armed groups.

Enlisting or recruiting children under the age of 18 into an armed force or group other than the national armed forces, as well as using children under the age of 18 to actively participate in hostilities, is a crime under Article 3 of the International Humanitarian Law Act, paragraph 24, Section 4C.

“We must all condemn the NPA’s blatant violation of children’s rights. These minors were deceived and manipulated, we can prevent the NPA’s recruitment by monitoring the activities of our children and teaching them to be wary and vigilant against CNT and their front organizations,” Maj. Gen. Brawner Jr added.

In a news release issued on Saturday, the 4ID emphasized that ten rebels were apprehended, not nine as previously stated. Six of the ten are males and four are females, with three minors and seven indigenous peoples (IPs) among them.

Two of the ten were injured in the fight, according to the report. One of the wounded rebels is presently in a stable condition in a hospital, while the other was handed over to local authorities.

Through the assistance of Rebecca C. Marva, Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer of San Fernanado, Bukidnon, the three child-soldiers were identified as: alias Jef, male, 11; alias Taburok, female, 17; and alias Daniel, male, believed to be under 18.

Due to the lack of a birth document, the age of alias Daniel cannot be determined.

They are all relatives of NPA members, according to Alias Taburok, an IP.

She went on to say that a particular alias Daligas, who was slain in a fight in 2020, was his uncle.

She stated she was merely invited to an NPA lair by his uncle for a visit, but she was no longer allowed to return home; she went through teach-ins and eventually became an NPA member for two years.

To date, there have been 62 child soldiers surrendered and ‘rescued’ inside the 4ID area of duty in Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

San Fernando’s municipal administration, through the MSWDO, provided fresh clothing, food packs, and other basic requirements to the detained NPA rebels, including the three minors.

The United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines have all designated the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group.

On June 23, 2021, the Anti-Terrorism Council formally recognized the NDF as a terrorist group, stating it as “an integral and independent member” of the CPP-NPA.

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