Government agencies sign agreement to implement law to protect children in armed conflict

MANILA, July 25 (PNA) — Representatives of various government agencies on Friday signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) to carry out Executive Order 138 on protecting the welfare of children involved in armed conflict.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles, and Department of Education Undersecretary Albert Muyot were among those who signed the memorandum during a ceremony held at the Social Hall of Mabini Building in Malacañang.

The signing of the MOA seeks the support of government agencies and other stakeholders to commit to their roles and responsibilities in the implementation of EO 138 on the monitoring, reporting and organization of a response system to prevent the abuse of children’s rights in situations of armed conflict.

Executive Order 138 “Amending Executive Order 56 Adopting the Comprehensive Program Framework for Children in Armed Conflict, Strengthening the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and for Other Purposes” was signed by the President in August last year.

The Comprehensive Program Framework for Children in Armed Conflict directs government agencies and local government units to address the alarming involvement of children in armed conflict as combatants, couriers, guides, spies, medics, cooks or any similar non-combatant capacity.

The CWC, which serves as the focal interagency body for the government, will coordinate and lead the organization of the Monitoring, Reporting and Response System Team, composed of several government agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP).

They are mandated to respond to concerns of children in situations of conflict, such as killing, maiming, recruitment and use of children, attacks on schools and health facilities, rape and other abuses.

The Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Armed Conflict, organized through a memorandum of agreement in April 2007, will be chaired by the CWC.

Its members are the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Education, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Justice, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine National Police, Presidential Human Rights Committee, Presidential Management Staff, and Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process.

Republic Act No. 7610, also known as the “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act,” declares children as Zones of Peace and as such, they shall not be recruited to become members of the armed forces or its civilian units, or be used as fighters, couriers or spies.

From 2011 to 2013, the DSWD took care of 229 children who were victims of armed conflicts. Last February, local and foreign media reported that three child soldiers were among 53 people killed in a week-long fighting between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. (PNA)