The government renewed its commitment to protect children in situations of armed conflict as it joins the world in observing International Human Rights Day on Tuesday (December 10).
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said that despite the steps made to establish a “child-friendly society”, there remains a “serious threat” to these government efforts.
“In various parts of the country, our children and youth are exploited by groups that advance terrorism. Children and youth, mostly from indigenous communities and as young as 11 years old, are trafficked by local armed Communists, taken to the hinterlands, and forced into becoming warriors,” Medialdea said.
“While some of them have been rescued by government forces, some were not as fortunate as they became casualties in armed encounters where they were ordered to participate by their abusers,” he added.
Medialdea said the government will fully implement the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act signed by the President in January this year.
The law requires the state to “provide special protection to children in situations of armed conflict from all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, cruelty, discrimination and other conditions prejudicial to their development, taking into consideration their gender, cultural, ethnic and religious background”.
It also requires the state to take all feasible measures to “prevent the recruitment, re-recruitment, use, displacement of, or grave child rights violations against children involved in armed conflict”.
“We are committed to quell this terrorist threat against our children and youth,” Medialdea said.
“We are determined that every Filipino must continue to enjoy the fruits of peace, freedom, and progress. But such a resolve can only be fully realized in a society that allows our children and youth to rise as productive movers and future leaders of the country,” he added.
New education facilities
The Palace official bared that new education facilities will replace the 55 Salugpungan schools in Mindanao which were shut down following allegations they were training grounds for the raising of child warriors.
He also appealed to parents and guardians anew to discourage their children from being lured into terrorism.
“Through the parents, relatives, and loved ones of these children, we shall appeal to the thousands of youth that have been lured to terrorism to return to their families. We shall encourage them to reclaim their role in nation-building,” Medialdea said.
“A much better future for the Filipino children and youth; a progressive society where they can thrive and develop their full human potentials. This is the vision that rouses the Duterte administration to action. Let us move as one to achieve it,” he added.
Medialdea’s statement came following reports that a minor allegedly used by the New People’s Army (NPA) was reportedly killed in an encounter with government forces last week.
The Commission on Human Rights is set to launch an investigation into the NPA recruitment of 16-year-old Litboy Talja Binongcasan, a sixth-grade student from Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental.
According to the United Nations website, Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the UN General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being.
This year’s theme “Stand Up for Human Rights” aims “to celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplify their voices, and engage a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights”.
The campaign, led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is designed to “encourage, galvanize, and showcase how youth all over the world stand up for rights and against racism, hate speech, bullying, discrimination, and climate change, to name a few”. (PNA)