Ambassador Evan P. Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Contributed photo)

GENEVA, Switzerland – Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador Evan P. Garcia, on Monday conveyed the country’s full support for the work of the UN experts and urged them to continue paying close attention to the modus operandi through which recruitment of child soldiers is carried out in different settings.

Responding to two UN experts’ statements and reports in the ongoing 44th UN Human Rights Council Session, who drew attention to the situation of children being recruited for armed combat, Garcia cited the example of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) that has exploited the cover of charitable schools and school-based youth organizations, among others, to train child combatants for their terroristic activities.

“The terrorist group abuses the cover of ‘human rights defender’ to escape detection, project legitimacy, solicit funds from unwitting foreign donors, and evade accountability while victimizing thousands of vulnerable children, especially those from indigenous communities,” he said.

UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Virginia Gamba, outlined the challenges in ending and preventing grave violations against children including their recruitment and use, killing and maiming, abduction, and rape and sexual violence.

Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, highlighted how conflict and post-conflict settings heighten the vulnerability of children to being trafficked to serve as soldiers, servants, or sexual slaves.

The report of Gamba acknowledged the Philippines’ law on “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict” that was enacted in January 2019.

She recognized the law to be an important measure toward improving the protection of children and ensuring accountability for grave violations.

She also referred, in her report, to a mission conducted in the Philippines in December 2018 where lessons and best practices were gathered relative to her meeting with UN entities, government officials, and disengaged child soldiers of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and their families.

As Garcia encouraged the UN experts to further intensify their work in the area of combating the recruitment of child soldiers, he flagged about the employment by certain armed non-state actors or terrorist organizations such as the CPP-NPA-NDF in the Philippines of insidious means to recruit child combatants, taking them away from the safety of their families, schools, and communities. (PNA)