At least 544 child warriors have been recruited and used by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in its armed struggle against the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said in its complaint to the United Nations (UN).
Col. Alejando Nacnac, head of the AFP-Human Rights Office (HRO), said they have already provided the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator the list of child warriors allegedly deployed by the NPA.
The list was compiled since 2010.
“The number is expected to rise as several military units continue to conduct inquiry on the matter,” he added. The official said copies of the report have been furnished to UNICEF and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for immediate action as part of the effort to protect children from child abuse, exploitation, and discrimination. He said the same report has already been submitted to the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to seek appropriate action.
“The report aims to enlist the above-mentioned organizations’ support in the AFPHRO’s quest to put a stop to this nefarious practice against children. The AFP through the AFPHRO will untiringly work with you as we pursue our common interest to uphold children’s rights,” said Nacnac. Joma blamed for death of solon’s daughter
As this developed, the AFP blamed the death of the 22-year-old daughter of Rep. Eufemia Cullamat to CPP founder Jose Maria Sison even as it offered its condolences to the family of the Bayan Muna party-list solon.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the pain that the family of Rep. Cullamat is feeling is no different from the families of soldiers who lost their kin in the five-decade long armed conflict between government forces and the communist rebels.
“The AFP deeply condoles with Congresswoman Eufemia Cullamat and her family for the demise of her youngest daughter Jevilyn Cullamat,” said Arevalo in a statement.
The 22-year-old Cullamat, the youngest child of the Bayan Muna representative, was killed in an encounter between communist rebels and Army troopers at around 4 p.m. on Saturday in Barangay San Isidro, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur. She reportedly served as medical officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the province.
Seized during the operation were five high powered firearms, explosives, and other documents and paraphernalia.
“We grieve deeply with the Bayan Muna representative and her family as we would for many Filipino families – including soldiers – who have lost a father, a mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, or kin in this more than five decades of fighting,” said Arevalo.
In a separate statement, Cullamat confirmed the death of her daughter but said she is not surprised why her daughter joined the NPA. Cullamat, a member of the Manobo tribe, cited the injustice that indigenous peoples in Caraga region as the reason why some locals have been joining the NPA.
“I believe that she was fighting for a just cause but she chose a different way to stop the abuses against the Lumads and other indigenous peoples,” said Rep. Cullamat.
The indigenous peoples in Caraga region and other areas are caught in the middle of the armed conflict between the government and the NPA for several years now.
The indigenous peoples in Mindanao have been accusing the government of neglect and said they are victims of injustice on the hands of powerful people in Mindanao who would steal their lands from them.
But for Arevalo, it is the deception of the NPA that encouraged some people, particularly the youth, to fight the government. He blamed Sison and other key leaders of the CPP-NPA for it.
“This senseless killing of and by fellow Filipinos – espoused and propagated by CTG (Communist Terrorist Group) leaders like Jose Maria Sison living luxuriously in some foreign land – should come to an end,” said Arevalo.
“We can only pray for the many youth whose lives have been wasted by Sison’s deception and lies – including that of the daughter of the Representative and other sorrowful mothers whose children have died or are now in the ranks of the NPA.
There should not be another Jevilyn Cullamat; or another Congresswoman Cullamat to suffer another loss for a senseless cause,” he added.
The NPA has been fighting more than five decades of armed struggle against the government.
Attempts to strike a peace deal with the group, including the release of arrested NPA leaders that include the Tiamzon couple, have failed.