PASIG CITY – Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. has denounced anew the devious and inhumane tactic of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) of recruiting children and training them to become combatants in a protracted guerilla war that is based on a twisted and outdated Maoist ideology.
“The CPP-NPA is destroying the future of our children and the hope of our nation. Instead of inspiring them to be upright, peaceful and law-abiding citizens, the insurgents are molding them into child warriors with the sole purpose of fighting the government,” Galvez said Thursday.
Rescued child combatants
Galvez was reacting to news reports of a 14-year old member of the CPP-NPA who was rescued on Tuesday by government troops in the hinterland village of Mt. Malindang in Misamis Occidental.
Based on accounts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 102nd Brigade, the lad who was only identified as “Bentong,” joined the guerilla front Sendong of the Western Mindanao Regional Party when he was only 13 years old.
The boy was abandoned by his comrades in the jungle and appeared to be lost when he was rescued by soldiers. He is now undergoing stress debriefing from a team composed of military, police and social welfare personnel.
“By using these child-warriors to fight in their war with the government, the Reds have shown they have no dignity nor compassion to speak of. Imagine, these children should be holding pens and books, but instead are being trained to shoot rifles and kill people,” said Galvez, Secretary of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process.
“All they (insurgents) care about is to achieve their goal at all costs, even at the expense of the lives of innocent children,” he said. “And for an organization which heavily espouses the protection of human rights, it is, in fact, the number one violator of these rights.”
Galvez, who is former AFP chief of staff, said the CPP-NPA managed to survive due to their aggressive recruitment of young members, especially those coming from marginalized sectors and learning institutions from across the country.
His position has been validated by top military officials who have warned that the presence of such “child warriors” across Mindanao is now a major cause for concern and must be decisively addressed.
Major General Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said in November of last year that the presence of these child guerilla fighters in Northern Mindanao and the CARAGA Region has become “very alarming.”
Gacal said the military learned of the CPP-NPA’s active recruitment in the said areas after two members of the communist group named alias “Kent” and alias “Bradex,” aged 19 and 23, respectively, surrendered to authorities.
Kent was wounded during an armed encounter and was subsequently rescued by government troops. Bradex recalled that he was recruited by the communist organization when he was only 12-years old and became a full-time combatant at the age of 16.
Kent and Bradex’s revelations were validated by alias “Karla,” a 17-year old CPP-NPA medic who surrendered in March of last year to the 23rd Infantry Battalion (23IB) in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. She was only 14-years old when the rebels recruited her.
In Davao City, alias “Alem,” a 3rd year BS Architecture student of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) was among the nine CPP-NPA members who turned themselves into the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) last April 2019.
During a press briefing, Alem bared that upon joining the rebel group, she became an active organizer of left-leaning organizations such as the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan and Samahan ng Kabataang Demokratiko sa Asyenda Luisita (SAKDAL).
Based on the profile of these rebel returnees, Galvez noted that the CPP-NPA has a reason for targeting the youth sector, particularly students from prestigious colleges and universities whom the rebel group can radicalize and use as weapons against the government.
“The Reds have really trained their eyes on the youth sector. As much as possible, they want to recruit student-leaders who can easily be brainwashed and subsequently, can help recruit new members. It is time to put an end to this vicious cycle,” he said.
CPP-NPA: No. 1 violators of IHL
Galvez said by bringing child warriors into their fold, the communist insurgents are violating international humanitarian law (IHL) such as the Geneva Convention IV of 1949 and its 1977 Additional Protocol, and the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 38(3) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child declares that “States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen (15) years into their armed forces.
“In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavor to give priority to those who are oldest,” the convention added.
As can be gleaned from these conventions, Galvez said the CPP-NPA has demonstrated that they have no respect whatsoever for international humanitarian law and therefore, “should not use IHL to mask their evil intent.”
“It is time for the communist insurgents to own up to their misdeeds. Since the start of their decades-long armed rebellion, they have used children to fight their senseless war. It is time we put an end to this terrible act,” he said.
This is the reason, Galvez said, why the Duterte Administration is aggressively implementing its “Whole-Of-Nation” Approach under Executive Order No. 70, which aims to put an end to the communist insurgency by directly addressing its root causes.
“Through this multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach, it is President Duterte’s goal to stamp out the communist rebellion and bring genuine and long-lasting peace to our country,” he said.
To date, almost 11,000 CPP-NPA members and active supporters have returned to the fold of the law as a result of the Whole-Of-Nation Approach wherein local government units are tasked to carry out localized peace engagements with rebels in their respective communities. (iamigo/sovereignph.com/OPAPP)