St. Valentine was a young priest who was jailed and executed in 269 AD for his conviction and stand against powerful oppressors. His act of sacrifice was out of love for justice, truth, freedom and human rights. Today, as the world celebrates his day, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) prepares for the resumption of formal talks on peace. In the spirit of the true meaning of St. Valentine’s Day, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, an umbrella organization of child-focused organizations, welcomes the resumption of peace talks which has been stalled for six years now.
Melissa San Miguel, Spokesperson of Salinlahi said that during the absence of peace talks, a culture of impunty in violating human rights developed, targetting even children. According to data of Children’s Rehabilitation Center, a founding member of Salinlahi, there was an alarming trend of human rights violations committed against children during the 9-year presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. CRC data cited 77 cases of killing, 58 cases of frustrated killings, 56 cases of torture, 77 cases of Illegal Arrest and Detention. At least 41 children were falsely branded as child combatant, including Grecil Buya, a 9 year old girl from New Bataan, Compostela Valley who was shot and killed by soldiers.
“The culture of impunity has not been curbed even as a new President came to power,” San Miguel said. “In fact, we recently received alarming reports that the military recruits children as members of the CAFGU as well as the forcible custody of children who were allegedly being recruited by the NPA.” She cited the case of Noel Baez, 17 years old, and who testified that he was tortured by the military when his parents refused to allow him to be recruited into the CAFGU. Another case, “Amanda” was taken into custody and forced to admit of being an NPA member by the military.
The child rights organization also highlighted the need to highlight socio-economic reforms in the peace talks. “Socio-economic reforms must discuss substantive issues relating to the basic rights of children such as right to survive and develop,” said San Miguel. “Recent acts of the Aquino government have put to doubt its sincerity in addressing such issue.” She was referring to the brutal demolitions in North Triangle, Quezon City and in Bgy. Corazon de Jesus in San Juan causes dislocation, psychological and physical harm to children. The violent demolition in San Juan last January 25 resulted to the injury of hundreds of individuals, including children who suffered respiratory problems when they inhaled tear gas.
Despite these, San Miguel still expressed their organization’s wish that the peace talks will move forward and result to at least an immediate relief for the Filipino children through political as well as socio-economic reforms. She advised that in the course of the peace talks, the children’s rights and welfare should be kept in mind, especially by the GPH panel. “It is, after all, our legacy to our children,” she ended.
For Reference: Melissa San Miguel, Spokesperson