MANILA, MAY 2, 2008
(STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - Filipino children have been maimed and killed by government troops, the New People’s Army and the Abu Sayyaf, according to the United Nations.

In a report released on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 19 children were killed in fighting between troops and the two anti-government bands between July 2005 and November 2007, and 42 were maimed.

“Just over half of these cases were perpetrated by government security forces, a fifth were attributed to the Abu Sayyaf Group/Jemaah Islamiyah rebels, and 8 percent to the communist insurgents, the New People’s Army (NPA),” the UN report said.

The report said there is evidence that government paramilitary forces and rebels, including the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), recruited children during the same period.

“Overall, the Secretary-General’s report finds that around half of verified grave violations against children were carried out by government security forces, a third by the NPA, and 15 percent by the Abu Sayyaf Group/Jemaah Islamiyah,” the report said.

The lower number of cases reported for the rebels is most likely due to a lack of access to these groups, the report added.

State and non-state actors enter into dialogue with the UN to end the recruitment of children as well as other grave violations of children’s rights, the Secretary-General said.

In her paper “Child Soldiers in the Philippines,” Merliza Makinano of the International Labor Affairs Service of the Department of Labor and Employment said children were trained for military preparedness when the MILF established Camp Abubakar in Matanog, Maguindanao in 1982.

The International Committee of the Red Cross survey cites the use of children by the MILF.

Reportedly, MILF policy allows the training of children as young as 12 years old, both boys and girls in their “madrashas” (religious schools).

The use of minors by the Abu Sayyaf mainly between the ages of 13 and 16, has been confirmed by military reports in their encounters with the group, Makinano said.

The Abu Sayyaf uses Islam to draw minors into the movement.

The recruitment is conducted during religious festivities. The recruits, mostly high school students, are promised a salary after training, firearms, and even scholarship abroad.

In Basilan, Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf not only recruit minors for combat, but use them as human shields and hostages.

For the NPA, anyone who is physically fit, regardless of age, sex, race, nationality or religion and has the capacity to fight and ready to participate in a protracted armed struggle against the government, may be an NPA fighter.

The military estimates about three percent of the 9,000 to 10,000 NPA fighters are children.

Around 20 to 25 percent of NPA recruits are children. In particular regions, the percentage may be higher. In Region 10 for instance, 14 percent of the combatants are children.

Children, prior to undergoing NPA orientation, go through the initial phases of recruitment, propaganda, and social investigation.

In their propaganda campaign, the communist insurgents “exploit local and national socio-economic and political issues to agitate ‘interest’ from the children.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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