By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Peace process adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. has denounced the “devious and inhumane tactic” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) of recruiting children and training them to become combatants in a protracted guerilla war.
Galvez made the statement after it was reported that a 14-year old member of the CPP-NPA was rescued on Tuesday by government troops in the hinterland village of Mt. Malindang in Misamis Occidental. It was reported that the teenager identified only as “Bentong” joined the rebels when he was only 13 years old.
According to Galvez, the Communist rebels were destroying the future of the children instead of inspiring them to be upright, peaceful and law-abiding citizens. He said the insurgents were molding the youth into becoming child warriors with the sole purpose of fighting the government.
“By using these child-warriors to fight in their war with the government, the Reds have shown they have no dignity nor compassion to speak of. Imagine, these children should be holding pens and books, but instead are being trained to shoot rifles and kill people,” he said.
“All they (insurgents) care about is to achieve their goal at all costs, even at the expense of the lives of innocent children,” he added.
No. 1 violators of IHL
Galvez said for an organization that heavily espouses the protection of human rights, the CPP-NPA were the number one violators of the international humanitarian law (IHL) such as the Geneva Convention IV of 1949 and its 1977 Additional Protocol, and the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 38(3) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child declares that “States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen (15) years into their armed forces.”
“In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavor to give priority to those who are oldest,” the convention furthered.
According to Galvez, the insurgents have clearly demonstrated that they have no respect whatsoever for international humanitarian law and that they “should not use IHL to mask their evil intent.”
“It is time for the communist insurgents to own up to their misdeeds. Since the start of their decades-long armed rebellion, they have used children to fight their senseless war. It is time we put an end to this terrible act,” he said.
Meanwhile, the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff said the CPP-NPA have managed to survive due to their aggressive recruitment of young members, especially those coming from marginalized sectors and learning institutions from across the country.
In November last year, Major General Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said the presence of these child guerilla fighters in Northern Mindanao and the CARAGA Region has become “very alarming.”
Gacal said the military learned of the CPP-NPA’s active recruitment in the said areas after two members of the communist group identified as “Kent” and “Bradex,” aged 19 and 23, respectively, surrendered to authorities.
According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process (OPAPP), Kent was wounded during an armed encounter and was subsequently rescued by government troops. Bradex, meanwhile, was recruited by the communist organization when he was only 12 years old and became a full-time combatant at the age of 16.
In his statement, Galvez noted that the communist rebels are targeting the youth, particularly students from prestigious colleges and universities because they can radicalize and use them as weapons against the government.
“The Reds have really trained their eyes on the youth sector. As much as possible, they want to recruit student-leaders who can easily be brainwashed and subsequently, can help recruit new members. It is time to put an end to this vicious cycle,” he explained.