Bombing in Baganga distressed children, violated their rights: group

Mar. 15, 2008

There are clear manifestations of uneasiness and tension in the children while they were sharing their experiences, particularly during the bombing.

This summed up the report of John Birondo, advocacy officer of the southern Mindanao office of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), in a statement they released. CRC was one of the organizations that participated in the Exodus for Peace – Interfaith Peace and Mercy Mission to Baganga, Davao Oriental on March 6 and 7. The activity also had in attendance various religious, health and child rights groups, as well as representatives from the academe, the youth sector and other non-government organizations (NGOs).

CRC said that, based on the output of the psychosocial therapy activities they conducted,

children from barangays San Victor and Campawan were seriously traumatized after they witnessed the indiscriminate bombings of Sitio Bagong Bayan, Brgy. San Victor, Baganga on January 30 of this year.

In a separate statement, human rights group Karapatan southern Mindanao, revealed that they documented 330 families in Baganga as victims of forcible evacuation due to intensive military operations launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the area. Among those displaced were 1,275 children under 17 years old.

Birondo said that 239 children aged 3 to 17 years old coming from the 12 affected communities participated in the psychosocial therapy activities.

According to CRC, the children witnessed airplanes and helicopters indiscriminately firing guns and dropping bombs on Sitio Bagong Bayan. They heard the loud explosions and felt the tremors every time one of the bombs exploded. Some children also saw dead bodies being lifted into helicopters and military troops fully armed and geared for operation within the civilian populace.

An 11year old boy shared that he actually saw one of the bombs land a house in Bagong Bayan while he was attending to their rice fields across the affected community, Birondo said. He added that, after the incident, the children said they would run and hide whenever they saw helicopters flying above their communities. They trembled in fear, afraid to witness another round of bombing.

CRC also said that some of the children were at school having classes when the bombings occurred. They cried out of fear when they heard the loud explosions. Thankfully, the teachers were able to keep the children safe by not allowing them to go out from their classrooms until the bombings stopped. Classes have been continuously disrupted ever since.

Birondo recounted that the even the children who did not live in Bagong Bayan and nearby communities knew that those directly affected had to leave their homes. He said the children said that the families in these communities had to evacuate for fear for their lives. This is contrary to the statement of the Davao Oriental provincial government which CRC says is until now in a state of denial.

This inhumane military actions done by the Armed Forces of the Philippines particularly the 67th IBPA (infantry battalion – Philippine army) is a clear violation of the children’s rights specifically the right to protection or safety by the state and its agents and the right to development, Birondo said.

CRC said they would be filing complaints with the Child Rights Center under the Commission on Human Rights and with the regional sub-committee for the Welfare of Children. They would also be submitting reports and complaints to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

We adamantly demand for the immediate pull-out of the military troops and their armaments within the civilian populace of Davao Oriental. (This is) for the best interests of our children, Birondo ended. ###

For reference:

John Birondo

Advocacy Officer, Children’s Rehabilitation Center

Southern Mindanao Regional Office

Contact no. (082) 2994596, 09184417947

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