Through arts and play, the children were able to see that they have a voice to speak out their concerns.
By JOAN GARCIA
ILOCOS SUR – Around 100 children, aged 8-16 years old, called on the Philippine Army to leave their communities at Sta. Lucia and Salcedo, Ilocos Sur. During the two-day Peace Camp held on November 30 to December 1, the children participants expressed their fear and anger at the encampment of the military near their homes.
JM*, 12 years old, said their livelihood has been disrupted since the military came, as his parents are afraid to go to the mountains for fear of being mistaken as members of the New People’s Army.
According to Zoilo Baladad, Outreach Program Coordinator of Children’s Rehabilitation Center Ilocos, the military started to encamp in the communities during the start of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration. The 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army has been staying at the mountain side of the communities because they claim that the people in the area are supporters of the NPA. Even socio-economic projects by non-government organizations are being tagged as having come from the NPA. The potable water system built by the Timpuyog Ti Umili Ti Karayan Buaya (People’s Organization at Buaya River) was tagged by the military as a project of the armed group.
Among the human rights violations recorded in the area are the encampment in the barangay hall and attempted arrest of a resident on grounds that he is a suspected member of the NPA.
Through arts and play, the children were able to see that they have a voice to speak out their concerns. JM said he realized that even if they are still young, they have a role to play and that is to actively fight for their rights.