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    Stop tagging children victims as “child soldiers” — Child rights group

    Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) raised alarm over the recent cases of children illegally arrested, tortured and even tagged as suspected members of the New People’s Army by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the province of Agusan del Sur.

    “Just this month alone, three children were added to the increasing cases of branding children victims of human rights violations as child soldiers. Like the previous cases under Oplan Bayanihan (Aquino government counter-insurgency program), these children were civilians and in fact victims of AFP’s rights violations” said Jacquiline Ruiz, CRC Executive Director.

    Four Lumads of whom three are minors were arrested on 22 July by elements of 26th Infantry Battalion and its paramilitary Bagani Force on the suspicion of being members of the NPA operating in Loreto, Agusan del Sur. Upon verification, it was proved that these children are civilians heading to Barangay (village) Poblacion to register for the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections when the said military elements illegally arrested and continuously tortured them.

    Moreover, the intensified military operations in Loreto continued, resulting to the forcible evacuation of around 423 individuals, including 224 children on 28 July.

    “Like most cases, communities allegedly influenced by the NPA were harassed, civilians were interrogated, arrested, tortured, and tagged as members of the rebel group. It is saddening because children are not spared. The effect of these violations to the well-being of children is severe. Again, we are urging the Aquino government and the AFP to respect the rights of the civilians, especially children. The government must end its long practice of baseless tagging of children as child soldiers and reprimand the perpetrators,” Ruiz ended.

    Reference:
    Jacquiline Ruiz, CRC Executive Director
    Tel: +63 2 913 9244

    Children’s Rehabilitation Center
    #90 J. Bugallon Street, Project 4
    Brgy. Bagumbuhay, Quezon City,
    Philippines
    www.childrehabcenter.org

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