Child’s death ‘litmus test’ on law securing children in armed conflict

Published June 18, 2021, 12:05 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Child Rights Network

The alleged killing by the military of a 12-year-old Lumad student in Surigao del Sur last June 15 will serve as “litmus test” on the 2019 law on Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict.

Child Rights Network, the largest alliance of children’s rights advocates in the Philippines, said Republic Act No. 11188, which was signed by President Duterte on Jan. 10, 2019, seeks to protect children in situations of armed conflict from all forms of abuse and violence by declaring children as “zones of peace.”

“We call on the Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (CSAC), formed under RA 11188, to immediately convene and probe the incident to ensure that justice is served,” CRN said.

It said the law also stipulated strict provisions that would allow the government to prosecute persons or groups violating its provisions.

It pointed out that RA 11188 tasked the government to ensure that children in situations of armed conflict are rescued and rehabilitated. The killing that took place in Lianga served as a “litmus test for this new law,” it said.

Killed allegedly by the military in Lianga, Zamboanga del Sur were three members of the Lumad-Manobo indigenous people (IP), including a 12-year-old student.

The victims were identified as farmers Willy Rodriguez and Lenie Rivas, and 12-year-old angel Rivas.

“There can be no logical reason to justify the reported killing of unarmed civilians, much less a minor,” CRN stressed.

“Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense must not let this issue pass quietly without holding anyone accountable,” it said.

“We expect swift and decisive action from authorities to ensure that not one more child or unarmed civilian is killed in situations of armed conflict,” it added.

Karapatan Alliance, a human rights advocacy group, had said that Angel was a grade six student of the Lumad School Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), while Rodriquez and Rivas were both members of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod.

It alleged that members of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army opened fire at them around 1 p.m. of June 15 while they were harvesting abaca.

The military, on the other hand, claimed that the victims fired at them and even detonated a bomb, prompting them to fight back.