Groups denounce use of child combatants

Three cause-oriented groups on Sunday marked the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers by denouncing communist and Islamist terrorist groups that continue to recruit the youth as combatants in the Philippines.

Also known as Red Hand Day, the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers is marked every February 12. UNICEF and the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui on Friday called for urgent action to end grave violations against children, including their recruitment by armed groups, as children are increasingly vulnerable as conflicts abound.

In a joint statement, Jose Antonio “Ka Pep” Goitia, Secretary General of Liga Independencia Pilipinas; Grace Ibuna of Melchora Partylist For Women; and Miko Tiongco of Youth Power Against Destabilization and Terrorism, said: “If we remain silent and dumb it will continue to proliferate and take its toll on our children.”

“As we commemorate the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, we feel uneasiness and guilt on how nations allow such actions, and at the same time how some barbaric and terror groups exploit their innocence and idealism in pursuit of their violent and selfish motives,” they said. “It is not just an effort of government and state to prevent such wrongdoings, but also us as individuals and collective groups through various peoples’ organizations have a moral ascendancy on this matter,” the group added.

They noted the Philippines is not spared of such crimes, as the continuous recruitment of children as terrorist combatants by the ISIS-Maute-Abu Sayyaf group and the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front“has degraded their war into barbaric proportions.”

“We are issuing a joint statement of condemnation for such terroristic and uncivilized activities.  The recruitment of minors as combatants has no place in any civilized or democratic state,” they said.

“On our part, we will continuously inform the public, especially our fellow parents, on the schemes of using legal fronts to recruit and exploit our children in gargantuan proportions,” they added. Legal fronts, they said, exploit the idealism of Filipino youth and their aspirations without knowing that they are prey to the devilish intentions of these terror groups.

“Let us help expose them and their grand schemes of infiltration in our schools, communities, religious groups, civic oriented organizations and even government institutions. Spare our children,spare the Filipino children. Fight to expose them, their infiltrations, and terroristic recruitments,” the group said.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite on Sunday questioned the multi-million-peso funding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

“What’s the basis of this large allocation for Davao City? Was the heartland of the communist insurgency? It’s hard to believe that there were communist guerillas in the 82 barangays chosen by the NTF-ELCAC,” he said.

“It seems the Duterte camp has started oiling its electoral campaign machinery through the Generals’ pork barrel lodged in the NTF-ELCAC, and of course their bailiwick Davao, both city and region, gets the lion’s share,” he added.   

He made the statement as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC proceeds with the allocation of its P16.4-billion barangay development program funds.

According to the Department of Budget and Management’s LocalBudget Circular No. 135, the entire Davao region would be receiving a hefty P4.3 billion with Davao City getting almost 40 percent at P1.64 billion.

Detractors tagged the BDP as the generals’ pork barrel giving the task force an almost complete autonomy for its allocation and disbursement.

The party-list group sought to reallocate the funds to pandemic response during the House budget deliberations last year.

“Bayan Muna will seek a special audit of these funds in due time. These are very large sums of money that we cannot afford to waste on potentially partisan political spending,” Gaite said.

Topics: International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers , Red Hand Day , UNICEF , UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict , Leila Zerrougui

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