As the Philippines joined the celebration of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers or Red Hand Day, the Commission on Human Rights on Friday joined the call for a stronger action to stop the practice of using child soldiers.
“It is appalling that, even up until this day, children are being recruited as soldiers in areas of armed conflict,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
“The trend is a cause for concern as children are continuously victimized for different reasons. Some are forced and abducted, while others are deceived or made to believe that joining an armed group is a chance for a better life. In the field, children in armed conflicts also fulfill different roles—on the frontlines, acting as spies, lookouts, messengers, couriers, or running errands. Due to the involvement of children in armed conflict, most of them end up with physical disabilities, while others die or are seriously injured in crossfires.”
De Guia says the CHR has monitored and is continuously investigating cases of children in situations of armed conflict.
“We have noted cases allegedly perpetrated by the New People’s Army where children are being harmed, killed or seriously injured in armed battles, among others. We strongly condemn these acts,” she said.
She says the use of child soldiers violates the very core of International Humanitarian Law that prohibits the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict and hostilities.
“We remind all groups—State and non-State alike—that the use of children as soldiers is a war crime. This reprehensible act robs the young of their childhood and the chance to have a better life,” De Guia said.
She called on the government to step up its efforts to enforce pertinent laws, such as Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act; RA 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International
Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity; and RA 11188 or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act.
These laws are in line with the government’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
“In the end, while there is a higher obligation from the government to ensure respect and protection of everyone’s rights, groups and individuals also bear the duty to protect them at all times and in all situations,” De Guia said.
“CHR will continue to rally for this cause and will continue to investigate cases of child soldiers—may these allegations come from the government or rebel groups—in line with our duty as an independent national human rights institution. We enjoin all sides to be open and transparent, to cooperate, and to work toward the protection and respect for the rights of children.”