By Genalyn Kabiling
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Monday denounced rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) for recruiting child soldiers in their armed struggle, saying such an act is a war crime and “highly unjustifiable and abominable.”
He also said the exploitation of children is also “highly immoral” because it robs them of their future.
Andanar issued the statement after a communist fighter killed in a recent clash with government troops turned out to be a 16-year-old student from Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental who was reported to be missing.
The body of Litboy Talja Binongcasan was reportedly recovered by the troops following the encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) last Nov. 30 in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.
“We strongly condemn the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army’s recruitment and use of child soldiers for their armed conflict. Such as in the instance when the 23rd Infantry Battalion encountered and identified a killed insurgent as 16-year old boy Litboy Talja Binongcasan,” Andanar said.
“Under International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, states and non-state armed groups must observe the prohibition of recruiting and using children in armed conflicts. To do so amounts to and constitutes a war crime that is highly unjustifiable and abominable,” he added.
Andanar said that the recruitment and use of child soldiers take away their rights and freedom towards self-determination.
“It also deprives them of the chance to achieve their goals and dreams, it robs them of their future. Such was the case with Litboy…It is highly immoral for any state and non-state actors to exploit the presence of children in their respective societies as a means to forward their idealogical goals,” he said.
Andanar offered condolences to Binongcasan’s family over the “unfortunate event” and appealed to parents to look after their children to prevent their recruitment by rebels.
“We would also like to request for the family of Litboy and for everyone to be more vigilant and attentive to the activities your children take part in. We ask you to do your part in order to halt and prevent any further exploitation and recruitment of our children by the CPP-NPA and other insurgent groups,” Andanar said.
He said that the government remains committed to the protection of the rights and welfare of children. “The government will continue to fight for our children’s rights and it will do all it can to protect and prevent them from being caught up in armed conflict as we pursue peace and security for our country.”