The book ‘Uncounted Lives’ features illustrations, including drawings of soldiers shooting at mosques and houses in the conflict that occurred in 2000, 2001 and 2003. These drawings and pictures offer a more concrete glimpse of the children’s experiences with armed conflict in their communities.
BY CJ KUIZON
Posted by Bulatlat
In North Cotabato, 14-year old Zaida remembers how government soldiers burned down their house, destroying many of their possessions in the fire. “Even the Q’uran,” recalls Zaida, “and my birth certificate.”
In Surigao del Sur, 13-year old Risa saw the wounds and bruises on her father and uncle. “I got sick after seeing my father’s and my uncle’s wounds,” she recalls. “My younger sister also became sick because of it.”
She said the two men were stopped at a military checkpoint. When the military saw their motorcycle laden with food, the two were tied up, beaten and made to walk back several kilometers to their home on their bare feet. They were also forced to eat uncooked eggplants.
Also in Surigao del Sur, Nina, 19, recalls how, when she was still in school, government soldiers rounded up the female students. One of the soldiers said, “The girls here are beautiful, I feel like kissing them on the lips.”
These are just a few of the stories featured in the book ‘Uncounted Lives: Children, Women, and Conflict in the Philippines,’ the culmination of years of research made by independent think-tank IBON Foundation.
Funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the book delves into the lives of women and children living in areas under the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), hence, the subject of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations.
The 350-page book, recently launched in Davao City, covers eight communities where on-going armed encounters between government troops and either the NPA or the MILF rebels occurred; namely: Abra and Mindoro Oriental in Luzon; Capiz and Leyte in the Visayas; and Surigao del Sur, Compostela Valley, North Cotabato and Maguindanao in Mindanao.
All eight communities acknowledged to have known the presence of either the NPA or the MILF as far back as the 1970s and where, during the 2001 to 2005 period covered by the study, armed confrontations intensified.