Army accused of seizing boy, tagging him a rebel


DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A nongovernment organization has accused the military of abducting a 14-year old boy in Magpet, North Cotabato, and later presenting him as a child combatant of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The Davao City-based Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) Southern Mindanao said the boy was taken into military custody while wandering in a forested area of Barangay (village) Bantak in Magpet on March 24.

The boy was later presented by the 57th Infantry Battalion  as an NPA combatant, who had surrendered to authorities in Kidapawan City, also in North Cotabato.

“Military officials said that [the boy] has been active for two years in the communist movement,” Rius Valle, CRC advocacy officer, said.

But Valle said what the military did was “blatant abduction and branding.”

Lt. Col. Nilo Vinluan, 57th Infantry Battalion commander, said the military has proof that Balong was a child rebel.

“He can even memorize and sing the NPA song,” Vinluan said by text message.

Valle said the boy was a graduating student of Bangkal Elementary School, also in Magpet.

Valle said the CRC could not simply believe the military line that the boy was a child soldier because he has been in school for the past two years.

Valle said the boy’s adviser in his Grade 6 class has complete class records of the boy.

But Vinluan said while it might be true that the boy has been attending classes, it does not weaken the military proof that the boy was a child rebel.

He said the boy was well versed about the NPA, including the NPA unit to which the boy supposedly belongs. The boy, said Vinluan, “can even identify the commanders and vice commanders of the group.”

CRC said another puzzle in the boy’s case was the military’s failure to present him to his family as soon as he was taken into custody.

“This is not just a branding case but a case of abduction,” Valle said.

The boy is in the custody of the Magpet Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) but CRC said it does not erase the fact that he was abducted by the military. Allan Nawal and Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao

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