The 26 children—23 boys and three girls between 12 and 17 years—were recruited in 11 separate incidents, according to the report released on June 12 titled “Grave Violations Committed Against Children in 22 Situations of Concern.”
Of the number, two were reportedly recruited and used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), 11 by the New People’s Army (NPA), 11 by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and two who were used as “guides” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in locating an enemy camp.
While the number remains considerably high, child soldier recruitment has seen a decrease from the previous year, Moon noted in the report.
“That figure represents a decrease in 2012, given that there were 54 incidents affecting 33 boys and 21 girls in 2011,” he said.
But Moon said the actual number of children soldiers in the country may in fact be higher, owing to the reality that the UN has no access to other armed groups, including the MILF splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“Although the United Nations has no access to the areas under the control of the BIFF, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led by Commander ‘Kato’, the country task force continued to receive credible reports that the armed group was actively training and providing weapons to children,” the report said.
Children as “guides”
The UN also cited concern over the use of children as “guides” in hostile territories.
“[We] remained concerned over the use of children by the national armed forces as guides and informants during military operations. In a verified case in July 2012, the Fifty-Seventh Infantry Battalion forced two boys aged 12 and 13 years to serve as guides to locate an NPA camp in North Cotabato Province,” the report said.
The military has yet to comment on this, but Moon noted in the report that the AFP has “issued directives prohibiting such use of children, assigning responsibility to commanders, institutionalizing investigations and putting in place corrective measures.”
Additionally, the report found the AFP’s alleged use of schools questionable. While stationing military units in schools does not directly mean recruitment, the UN pointed out that canceled classes for children have an averse effect on their continued education.
“In four verified incidents, the national armed forces stationed military units in public elementary schools in Mindanao. In June 2012, the country task force verified that three units of the national armed forces had established a detachment next to Salipongan Primary School in Tugaya municipality, Lanao del Sur Province, resulting in the closure of the school for two weeks,” Moon said in the report.
Govt actions lauded
Nevertheless, Moon lauded several efforts by the Philippines to curb the recruitment of children in the country.
“I am pleased to note that the Government is finalizing the implementation of the monitoring, reporting and response system to prevent and respond to specific incidents of grave violations against children,” Moon said.
“The national armed forces are also preparing draft guidelines on the conduct of operations inside or within the immediate premises of schools and hospitals, which are expected to be launched as an operational directive during the first half of 2013. In addition, with regard to the use of children during military operations, the national armed forces
The ASG, NPA and MILF continue to be cited in the UN blacklist of parties that recruit or use children, kill or maim children, commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, or engage in attacks on schools or hospitals in situations of armed conflict,” it added. — Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK, GMA News