MILF told: Spare kids from cruelties of war

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Philippine Army yesterday asked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to kindly spare the women and children in their acts of terrorism, saying the 40-year-old Mindanao conflict has killed an estimated 120,000 people and displaced almost two million residents.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said no one is spared from the vicious acts of the lawless MILF group (LMG). “They inflict sufferings not only on soldiers but on innocent civilians as well,” he said.

Brawner said just recently, at least five persons, including two children were killed when an armed group fired at a passenger bus in Lanao del Norte. The ambush happened in an isolated area in Bgy. Lumbac, Magsaysay town.

He said the police could not tell what group was behind the attack, but authorities said the area was being frequented by LMG under Commander Bravo.

Also, gunmen believed to be LMG members ambushed a private multi-cab near the town of Pikit, which resulted to the death of two children and wounding of five others. Among those killed were a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl.

Brawner said the two children were on their way to fetch their grandfather when they were attacked. Two other children below 10 years old were among those wounded.

“These recent attacks on innocent civilians are a manifestation that the lawless MILF is a group that respects no one, follows no rules and believes in no ideology. Children were supposed to live in a peaceful environment without fear that they may lose their loved ones or that they might be victims of the on-going conflict,” Brawner said.

He also said cases of children being recruited to be part of the revolutionary movement continues, despite laws on the protection of children being enforced. “Reality is, armed groups like the MILF and the New People’s Army continue to recruit and use children in their armed struggle. These groups, in using children in combat, expose them to grave danger, steal from them their innocence and deny them their childhood. Employing them as combatant is a gross violation of the laws enforced for the protection of children,” Brawner said.

The Philippine government is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC) and to the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. There are also laws that protect children in armed conflict such as Republic Act 7610 and Republic Act 9208. Article X, Section 22 (B) of Republic Act 7610 known as Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act, which was adopted in 1992, “prohibits the voluntary or forcible recruitment of children under 18 to the armed forces and other non-state armed opposition groups and their use as guides, couriers, and spies.” Article X, Section 25, on the other hand, guarantees the rights of children arrested for reasons related to armed conflict… The law also provides for the care and humane treatment of rescued and surrendered child soldiers. While Republic Act 9208 Section 4 (h) “prohibits any person, natural or juridical among others to recruit, transport or adopt a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad.