Military’s False Claims of Child Combatant in North Cotabato and Compostela Valley Endangers Rural Children

Media Release
March 27, 2010

A nationwide child rights advocacy group lambasted the military’s false claims in news reports that the 15 year old boy they arrested in Makilala, North Cotabato was allegedly aiding the New People’s Army detonate a bomb in Brgy. Old Balatukan, and another girl arrested by the 25th in Moncayo, Compostela Valley was an “amasona”.

“We want to straighten the truth about the 15 years old boy, “Allen”, and also the two girls “Ivy” and “Tere”, (not their real names) allegedly arrested by the military in an encounter, in North Cotabato and Compostela Valley in two separate incidents. These false claims are proof that military has not stopped their tact of branding children victims of human rights violations as child soldiers, similar to what they did to Grecil Buya in March 31, 2007. In fact, we have fact sheets to prove that these children were arbitrarily arrested and subjected to torture to force them to admit that they are members of the New People’s Army,” explained Sophia Garduce, spokesperson of SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns.

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Garduce added that their counterpart organization in Mindanao, the KABIBA Alliance for Children’s Concerns conducted a fact finding mission and found out that the two girls, actually aged 15 years old, were among the 13 upland farmers who were tending to their farms when they were accosted by at least 30 elements of the 25th Infantry Battalion last March 7, 2010. They were only presented to the court on March 11, 2010, in violation of RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Law. “They were illegally detained for more than 36 hours and subjected to mental torture. The military even made up a story that one of the minors is pregnant,” Garduce said.

Garduce also said that for the part of the 15 year old boy, “he was arrested last March 15, detained and tortured, to force him to admit that he was the one who set up the bombs. The military’s reason is that “Allen” was wearing an orange t-shirt, supposedly of similar color to the shirt worn by the last person the military saw in the vicinity of the incident. The military tied the boy like a pig and poked a knife into his neck and struck him on his back with the rifle butt.” The group found out that the boy is actually a child laborer in a rubber plantation and was on his way home for lunch.

“These children are facing the hardship of helping their parents to augment their livelihood because of poverty and yet, the military preys on them like vultures, seemingly just to meet their deadlines in crushing the insurgency problem.” Garduce further added.

Salinlahi also expressed alarm over reports of the military’s forcible custody of children of suspected members of revolutionary groups to gain leverage over the parents. “We will investigate such reports and if proven true, we will hold the military liable for this grave child rights violation,” Garduce warned. Salinlahi joined Kabiba in filing cases with the Joint Monitoring Committee on the implementation of CAHRIHL last Friday, March 26, 2010. The child rights advocates are also set to file cases with the Commission on Human Rights as well as the Ombudsman. “We will immediately prepare and submit a report to the United Nations Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and even the European Union to call the attention of the national and international bodies to the continuing grave violation of children’s rights by the military,” Garduce ended.

Reference: Sophia Garduce
Salinlahi Alliance for Childrens Concerns

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