March 30, 2010
Child rights advocates challenged presidential candidates to make a stand on children branded as “child soldiers” by the military to cover up their human rights abuses. The challenge was made as they commemorate the 3rd death anniversary of Grecil Buya, the 9 year old girl, who was killed during military operations by government forces against the New People’s Army in Compostela Valley last March 31, 2007. The Armed Forces of the Philippines issued statements after the operations that Grecil was a “child combatant”. Later, they retracted their statements upon the protestation of child rights and human rights groups who conducted fact finding mission.
Sophia Garduce, Spokesperson of SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns recalled that Grecil Buya was killed during holy week in an election period just like today. “We take this opportunity to raise this issue again because since the death of Grecil, the military has continued violating the rights of children with impunity, and Gloria Arroyo, their commander-in-chief, has done nothing to give justice to Grecil’s unnecessary death,” Garduce said.
SALINLAHI noted that for the first quarter of 2010 alone, 25 cases of human rights violations ranging from harassments, threat, abductions, torture, frustrated killings and other violations involving 11 children and minors, were documented by its member organization, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center. “The figure shows that children are victimized with various human rights violations perpetrated by state forces not just once, but several times over,” explained Garduce.
Garduce also said that documents show that a number of victims for this period are children who were forced by poverty to work to help augment their family income. She cited the case of frustrated killing and wounding of “Randy,” a 14 years old boy from Pangasinan, who went fishing with his brother but was strafed with bullets by elements of PNP San Fabian. “Similar to “Allen”, a 15 year old rubber plantation worker in Makilala, North Cotabato and “Tere” and “Ivy” from Moncayo, Compostela Valley who were working as upland farmers when accosted and tortured by elements of the AFP, “Randy” was also working when he was shot at by the PNP,” shared Garduce.
Garduce issued Salinlahi’s challenge to the candidates, particularly the presidential hopefuls, to review their platforms and ensure that the protection of the rights and welfare of children, particularly from marginalized sectors in the countryside, are clearly stated. “The presidential candidates’ track record on children’s concerns will show their true colors even after the election. Just like Judas who betrayed Jesus, their track records or lack of it, will betray them in the end,” Garduce said.
Meanwhile, child rights advocates in Mindanao led by KABIBA Alliance for Childrens Concerns held a forum about the UN-CRC and lighted candles in memory of Grecil Buya and other children victims of human rights violations.
SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns