By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A child rights group on Wednesday urged the government to provide stronger support and protection to children and communities in the conflict-affected Maguindanao province in Mindanao.
Save the Children Philippines (SCP) raised the alarm on “back-to-back killings” of children in Maguindanao, noting that four children have died in two violence-related cases less than three weeks apart.
“We are deeply alarmed at the deaths of these innocent children, the wounded minors and their families who have been affected by the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and are currently facing challenges brought by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said SCP Chief Executive Officer Atty. Alberto Muyot.
Muyot, who is also a former Undersecretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), said that “children bear the brunt of armed violence with loss of lives, risks to health and survival, and deprivation of their right to development, education and well-being.”
He stressed that rights of children especially during emergencies such as armed conflict should be “prioritized by the government.”
SCP said that just before the country’s 122nd Independence Day, two children were reportedly killed in a shooting incident in Barangay Talibadok, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Maguindanao on June 10.
Upon validation with community partners, SCP noted that the fatalities were Pelot, aged 4 and Raisa, 9, who were sleeping in their home when the incident occurred at around 10:15 pm. Their uncle, Ansare Usop, 31, was also killed while their mother Baby Anna Kalim, 27 was wounded.
SCP also cited that prior to this, in the occasion of Eid-al Fitr last May 24, “what was supposed to be a peaceful religious holiday turned into tragedy as two girls became casualties of a mortar shelling in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, also in Maguindanao.”
Reports stated that Asnaida Tambak, 7, and sister Aslamiya, 10, were just watching TV when a mortar shell hit them from their roof around 4pm. Wounded from the incident were their mother Noriasa, 40, their five-year-old brother, and three more minors in the area aged 7, 15, and a 16-year-old with disability, according to the tallied reports.
For SCP Cotabato Office Head Fanny Divino, these unfortunate incidents are only few of the protracted atrocities caused by armed conflicts in Maguindanao province that take away the lives of innocent children and their families. “We are in deep distress to hear these incidents,” she said.