MANILA – The government is determined to put an end to the recruitment of child combatants by the Communist Party of the Philippine-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
This was the commitment made by Assistant Secretary Wilben M. Mayor, OPAPP chief-of-staff and spokesperson, as he assured parents that the government will continue protecting their children against this inhumane tactic used by the CPP-NPA.
In a radio interview on Wednesday, Mayor said the communist insurgents are clearly violating the law by using children for their guerilla war.
“Di po dapat sila maging sundalo o kung anuman dahil unang-una, bawal ito sa International Humanitarian Law (IHL) at sa mga lokal na batas natin. Kaya mas binibigyan natin ng pagkakataon ang mga bata na sila ay mag-aral rather than sila ay makipaglaban sa gobyerno (They should not be made child warriors, it’s against International Humanitarian Law and our local laws. We should instead give them a chance to study rather than fight the government),” Mayor said.
Mayor said various line agencies have programs that are designed to assist child warriors who have left the armed struggle, or have been rescued by government forces from the rebel group.
“Maaari silang dumulog sa DSWD, sa ating kasundaluhan, sa mga pulis, sa gobyerno, at sa amin po (They can approach Department of Social Welfare and Development, our military, police, government and us, OPAPP),” he said.
He said the government will help the rescued children reunite with their families and reintegrate into mainstream society as peaceful and productive civilians.
“Meron tayo doon sa Department of Education, may tinatawag tayong Alternative Learning System (ALS), at marami pang mga programa para talagang ‘yung edukasyon ng mga bata ay ating ma-enhance (The education department has ALS and other programs that can enhance the education of our children),” Mayor said.
To prevent the Reds from exploiting children and other vulnerable sectors, Mayor said the government is implementing an integrated and holistic campaign that would stamp out the decades-long communist rebellion in the country.
He said under Executive Order 70, or the “Whole-of-Nation Approach” to end local communist armed conflict, government agencies are working closely with local government units and members of the community to directly address the roots of the armed struggle.
“Mayroon tayong ugnayan sa komunidad, ‘yung tinatawag nating localized peace engagements (LPE), para ‘yung mga ahensya ng gobyerno, kasama ng mga miyembro ng komunidad eh sama-sama sa pagtukoy ng kung ano ang makabubuti para sa lugar nila (We have coordination with community through LPE so that our government agencies and our partners in the community can jointly identify what is the best for their respective areas),” Mayor said.
Don’t be afraid of government
Part of the CPP-NPA’s deceptive strategy, he said, is to brainwash children. This ploy is meant to instill fear and hatred in their young minds, and convince them to view the security sector as the enemy.
Mayor said those who have been recruited by the rebel group, as well as their parents, should not be afraid of the government.
“Hindi po kakasuhan ang mga bata dahil ayon sa batas ay walang responsibility at liability ang isang minor dahil tine-take advantage lang ‘yung kanilang kabataan ng mga CPP-NPA (They will not be charged because our laws say minors have no responsibility and liability because CPP-NPA took advantage their young minds),” he said.
“Hindi nila kasalanan iyon. Kaya ang tungkulin ng gobyerno ay maibalik sila sa hanay ng lipunan (It’s not their fault. It’s the government’s responsibility to bring them back to the fold of the society),” Mayor added.
Recently, a 14-year old boy, identified only as “Bentong”, was rescued by government troops after he was seen roaming the jungles of Misamis Occidental.
Bentong was recruited by the Western Mindanao Regional Party’s Sendong guerrilla front when he was only 13 years old. The boy is in the custody of government social workers and is currently undergoing stress debriefing.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. has vehemently condemned the CPP-NPA for the crimes they have committed against children, saying the government will exhaust all efforts to ensure that all their rights, particularly to get an education, shall be protected.
“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,” Galvez said. (IAM/sovereignph.com)