ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – A mother has found a glimmer of hope after seven years of searching for her missing son.
Rowhanisa Abdul Jabar, a resident of Dagupan in Tondo, Manila, felt her heart beat faster after seeing a picture of an alleged child warrior of the ISIS-inspired which went viral online.
Jabar said someone sent her the photo after seeing that the alleged child warrior bear many features similar to her three-year-old Azramie Magondacan, also known as Ram-ram.
Several photos of children bringing high powered firearms, believed to be taken inside the main battle area in Marawi City, circulated on social media, Friday, August 24.
Jabar provided DavaoToday her affidavit of what happened to her toddler on July 4, 2010.
Ram-Ram was kidnapped from her rented apartment while she was tending her store in Tutuban Mall, Divisoria, Manila. The main suspect was her helper named Ula Arada who have been with her for only five months when the kidnapping happened.
Arada is now in jail but the alleged accomplices are at-large. Jabar said the suspects are all Tausug from Jolo.
“Nahirapan pa kasi akong mag-move on kaya nanginginig ako at kinakabahan (nang makita ko ang picture I find it hard to move on that’s why I feel nervous and was shaking when I saw the photo),” she said in a phone interview.
“Merong side na pwedeng anak ko, merong ding side na hindi. Pero kung totoo man na sa Marawi ang mga child warrior na iyon, sana hindi nalang siya iyon dahil masakit sa akin kung anak ko siya na isa nang ISIS,” Jabar said.
(The boy in the photo has an angle where he looks like my son and an angle where he does not. But if it’s true that the child is a warrior fighting in Marawi, I hope I’m mistaken that he is my son because it will be too painful to accept that my son is now with the ISIS.)
‘Forced to shoot’
In a press briefing on Friday, August 25, Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of the Task Group Ranao, confirmed that children warriors are being used by the ISIS-inspired group as their fighters in the ongoing war in Marawi City.
But Brawner said troops are forced to shoot young fighters when they get violent.
Brawner recounted that government troops were forced to shoot a child warrior when they saw him shooting at government forces.
“Once they saw a child running unarmed so they didn’t shoot. But the following say, they saw him again with a firearm and was fighting against our troops, they had no choice,” said Brawner.
“Our soldiers have a soft spot for young fighters but they are forced to shoot them when they get violent with their arms,” he said.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, said the Maute group do not respect the rights of the child as they recruit them in their army.
The Geneva Conventions prohibits the use of children in war.
The International Criminal Court (2002) also prohibits government-controlled armed forces and non-state armed groups children as their war fighters. It is reaffirmed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
“This is illegal, immoral and anti-Islamic,” Adiong said.
Even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has an internal rule in their combat operation against the deployment of children combatants, he said.
Still, Jabar appealed to the military to bring the child warrior to safety if they will be able to find him.
She said she hopes the child in the viral photo is still alive.
“Sana hindi nila papatayin para mapa-DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) test at malaman ko kung anak ko ba talaga siya (I hope they will not kill him when they find him in the battlefield so we can have his DNA tests and know if he is our son.),” Jabar said. (davaotoday.com)