The Arroyo government is the worst violator of children’s rights, as its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II had put children directly in harm’s way, a non-government organization said in a report.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
The Arroyo government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II had put children directly in harm’s way, and violated their basic human rights, said the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in a report.
The CRC has been providing psycho-social services to children-victims of state violence, disasters and abuse since the ‘80s.
Esmeralda Macaspac, CRC executive director, cited cases of children-victims mislabeled as “child-warriors”, minors being forced to guard checkpoints, or to act as guides in military operations. These cases were only some of the forms by which children suffer rights abuse under OBL II, Macaspac said.
The CRC report, presented at a media forum on December 4, showed that there were 948 documented cases of children victims of human rights violations.
The report said that from 2001 to 2008, 66 children were killed, 49 were victims of frustrated killing, 50 were tortured, five were raped, four were forcibly disappeared, and 55 were illegally arrested and detained. The NGO also estimated that about two million individuals, including children have been affected by forced displacement due to armed conflict. The CRC noted that from January to October of this year alone, 600,000 were displaced, mostly in Mindanao.
Macaspac said that the rights of children-victims are further violated when they are presented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as child soldiers and cases of rebellion are filed against them.
Macaspac said the military has three common excuses when violating the rights of children. She said soldiers would say that the children and their families are members of armed groups, that the military operations were legitimate or that the victims are part of ‘collateral damage.’
Macaspac cited the massacre of a Mangyan family in 2003. Killed were Rogelio Blanco, his eight-month pregnant wife Olivia and their children John Kevin, 3, and Dexter, 1.
Macaspac said, “After the massacre, the military said the whole family is with the NPA [New People’s Army].”
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.