The Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion (IB) has condemned anew the communist New People’s Army’s (NPA) use of child warriors.
This came after the 53IB said it discovered that many former NPA rebels who recently surrendered in Zamboanga del Sur, were minors when they were recruited.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, 53IB commander, described the NPA’s recruitment and exploitation of minors as “terroristic, inhumane, and clear violations of human rights.”
“Such terroristic and inhumane acts strip them (the children) of their rights incorporated in our laws,” Herrera said in a statement Thursday.
“The Battalion strongly condemns the NPA communist-terrorist groups’ recruitment and involvement of children in armed conflict because these violate the children’s human rights, the International Humanitarian Law, and Republic Act 11888 or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act.”
After custodial debriefing and investigation following the recent influx of surrendering NPA rebels in Zamboanga del Sur, he said at least 13 were considered as minors, with ages ranging from 15 years to 17 years, when they were recruited into the communist movement.
One of the child warriors, identified only by the military as “Sonny Boy”, said he was only 15 when recruiters promised him money in exchange for his membership in the rebel group.
“I wanted my family to have a better life. I joined the NPA because they said they will give us allowance regularly, but clearly, it was just a false promise,” Sonny Boy was quoted by 53IB as saying in the local dialect.
Lindy, another rebel who recently surrendered, said she had been with the NPA for 19 years and was also recruited when she was 17.
According to 53IB, Lindy has testified that the recruitment process either involved “exploiting the children’s misguided sense of nationalism and patriotism” or enticing them with a ticket out of poverty – or both.
“When I was still in the armed struggle, we preferred to recruit minors (under 18) because not only do they easily believe in our propaganda but they also want a way out of poverty,” she said.
Herrera noted that of the 13 former rebels who were recruited as minors, four have already received their benefits under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
He added that the documents of the remaining nine were still being processed.
“They will then undergo a transformative psycho-social activity in coordination with the Provincial Social Welfare and Development before receiving their benefits under E-CLIP,” Herrera said. (PNA)