“After Health Workers, Now Its Children Victimized by AFP”

Media Release
March 29, 2010

First, it was health workers. Now, the Armed Forces of the Philippines are victimizing children.

Health Alliance for Democracy strongly condemned the illegal detention and torture of two 15-year old girls and a 15-year old boy in North Cotabato and Compostela Valley after the army’s 25th Infantry Battalion accused them of being “child soldiers” of the New People’s Army.
“The use of children as targets or even as scapegoats in Oplan Bantay-Laya, the Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency program, is despicable,” said Dr. Darby Santiago, HEAD Chairperson.

According to information relayed to HEAD, the girls were in a group of 13 upland farmers tending to their farms when they were arrested last March 7. However, they were only presented to the courts on March 11.

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Similarly, the boy was working as a laborer in a rubber plantation to augment his family’s meager income when he was arrested last March 15. He was then hogtied and repeatedly poked with a knife and hit with a rifle butt while being forced to admit that he was a rebel soldier tasked to detonate a bomb.

“It seems that the Philippine military has a new standard operating procedure that involves falsely accusing as communist rebels innocent civilians they torture, brutalize, and even kill. This shameful SOP should be condemned as a continuing crime against the people,” added Dr. Santiago.

“The AFP has done this before, with 9-year old Grecil Buya, who was shot by soldiers in March 31, 2007. The army’s 101st Infantry Brigade justified the act by saying that the girl was a rebel soldier carrying an M16 armalite, even though this was physically impossible since the rifle was almost as tall as the girl!”

“The AFP repeated it earlier this year by accusing 43 health workers of being rebels. The military pointed to 61-year old Dr. Alex Montes, who is a church leader, as a rebel assassin and to the frail 61-year old Lydia Obera as a bomb-maker, even though Mama Del can barely operate her cellular phone because she has difficulty reading the text and controlling the keypad.”

HEAD warned that the abuses must be stopped immediately lest these worsen as the deadline of Oplan Bantay-Laya draws near.

“How many more will be arrested and tortured, killed and be silenced forever? How many more innocent families will be used as pawns by the AFP to prop up the success of Oplan Bantay-Laya?”

“We hold the President and Commander-in-Chief accountable for all of the atrocities committed in the name of counter-insurgency! We call on the Filipino people to act and end this madness, this fascist repression of the Arroyo regime!” concluded Dr. Santiago.

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