21 May 2012
Detained minor branded as ‘child warrior’ by AFP, rescued and reunited with family
Davao City — The family of detained wounded child had asserted for the release of their son from a military camp in Cagayan de Oro City for more than two weeks since his arbitrary arrest and detention in the hands of the 4th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“Jessie” (not his real name), 16 years old, was paraded by the 4th Infantry Division Philippine Army as ‘child warrior’ of the New People’s Army (NPA) after the military captured him at the evacuation center in Barangay New Visayas, Municipality of Trento, Province of Agusan del Sur last May 8.
Jessie who was still recuperating from the gunshot wound he sustained at the back portion of his left thigh was finally reunited with his family on May 22. Along with his sister ‘Mimi’ (not her real name), 15 years old, who accompanied her older brother at the military medical facility inside Camp Evangelista at 4th IDPA in Cagayan de Oro
“Both of their parents asserted the release and safe turn-over of their son for justifiable reasons that he is a minor, he is not a child warrior, they are capable for his medical treatment, and on the basis of the court ruling on the Writ of Habeas Corpus that favored Jessie’s parents against the AFP military officials responsible for the boy’s detention,” Lovey Caragao, Advocacy Officer of Kabiba Alliance for Children’s Concerns in Mindanao, said.
The family, assisted by Kabiba and Karapatan-Mindanao Inter-Regional
Offices, went inside the 4th IDPA Headquarters on May 22 and successfully brought Jessie and Mimi to Davao City where he will continue his medication and undergo psychosocial therapy sessions.
“The family can now go back to their community and reunite with the rest of the family members. They and the rest of the Barangay New Visayas residents need to recover from the trauma of experiencing aerial bombardments and human rights violations amidst the intense military operations in their community,” Caragao added.
On May 7, joint operations of the 25th and 75th IBPA under the command of the 4th ID and 10th ID conducted combat-heavy military operations and had a firefight with the NPAs in the forested area.
The military dropped seven bombs and indiscriminately fired on the forested area where Jessie was gathering woods and some other four children who were also trapped in their farm but were fortunately unharmed. The entire community forcibly evacuated at the New Visayas Barangay Hall. The four children were reunited with their respective families at the evacuation area on that day, except for Jessie who went missing.
On May 8, he appeared at the evacuation center all by himself, with a gunshot wound on his left thigh. But before his family could bring their son to the nearest hospital for treatment, the army soldiers from 75th IBPA who were at the evacuation center, seized and arrested Jessie, tagging him right away as a member of the NPA.
Caragao stated, “Children are the most vulnerable in situations of armed conflict and what’s very alarming is that the government continues to fail to protect and fulfill the best interests of the Filipino children. They are especially the underserved, marginalized and displaced. Data from the fact finding missions and requests for assistance from child rights organizations point to the appalling impacts of the current counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, to children as they are not spared from political attacks and propaganda. Similar to GMA’s Oplan Bantay Laya, PNoy’s promised of change and righteous path is mere soundbyte.”
Recent data presented by Kabiba showed that the military continues to target children and sow fear and deception with pseudo-development offerings among them.
According to the fact finding missions attended by Kabiba in the past years under the Aquino Administration, children’s rights defenders have cause to raise the alarm over the victimization of rural children: tagging of children NPA child soldiers, killing and
maiming; children suffer from separation from their parents, some are orphaned, girl-children are sexually exploited and abused.
Kabiba also warned the government over the use of schools and public places by so-called Peace and Development Teams which continues unabated and is justified through so called “development programs.”
“In our pyschosocial therapy session in Trento, we were surprised to hear from the children, aged seven to 16 years old, that the reason for the military encampment in their community is mining,” said Caragao.
All of these are gross violations to children’s rights which violate the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Member countries of the United Nations will gather in Geneva on May 29 for the Universal Periodic Review and assess the human rights conditions of the signatory countries. Gross violations of human rights including children’s concerns will be addressed at the UN Human Rights Council, hence, the Philippine Government will be put into the limelight again as there were no progress and significant measures done by the current administration of Pres. Noynoy Aquino to resolve human rights issues.
Lovey A. Caragao
KABIBA Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Inc.