By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Ilocos Spokesperson Rosa Guidon in a statement sent to the media said that the statement of Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, Commanding Officer of the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) reveals the military’s deception and ignorance of the prescribed minimum age of combatant under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
Earlier in the month of September, Osias was quoted by the media saying “surrenderees revealed that many members of their group include fighters 21 years old and below… some ages from 16 to 17 years old.” The army official accused the Alfredo Cesar Command-New People’s Army (ACC-NPA) Ilocos. But Guidon stated that the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions and the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sets the minimum age to 15 years old.
“His higher officials, Major General Angelito De Leon and Col. Henry Robinson, Jr. who heads the 7th Infantry Division and the 702nd IBPA, respectively, joined Osias’ recital in disparaging the people’s army and the national democratic revolution. Out of convenience, De Leon and Robinson cited Republic Act 7610 and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) to accuse the NPA of children’s rights violation. Despite their regular practice of composing false and wicked claims against the revolutionary movement, the trio failed to find the perfect pitch,” said the rebel spokesperson.
Guidon said that they are not surprised by Osias’ claim which the spokesperson described as fallacious. The NDFP official added it is not the first time that he lied about child soldiers in the NPA.
“During his stint commanding officer of the 4th Civil Military Operations Battalion under the 4th IDPA in CARAGA region, he constantly lied on the issue of child soldiers,” Guidon revealed.
According to the NDFP, Osias branded branded two youth members, age 16 of the First Christian Ministry as NPA child guerillas in May 2012. A fact-finding mission led by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) disproved the military’s claim. Guidon said Osias orchestrated the fake surrender of 80 individuals including minors in November 2011. “However, no less than Vice Governor Jose Zubiri, Jr. of Bukidnon disputed Osias’ publicity stunt,” the spokesperson added.
Guidon said that human rights advocates in the region documented 38 cases of military encampment in schools, day care centers and barangay halls in 32 barangays in Ilocos Sur alone. NDFP stated the 81st IBPA likewise breached Rule 23 and 24 of the Customary International Humanitarian Law that prohibit the placing of military objectives inside or near populated places. “These wanton disregard of established norms during armed conflict placed civilian lives, including children under threat and danger,” NDFP stressed.
According to Guidon, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), together with the NPA and NDFP uphold and regard the rights and welfare of children with utmost importance. The spokesperson said this adherence and standard set by the people’s democratic government is much higher than those set by the Geneva Conventions and the UNCRC.
“Prior to the UNCRC, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA adopted the policy of the 18 years old age requirement for NPA recruits. This policy was reiterated in the August 30, 1999 and October 15, 1999 memorandum of the Military Commission and Executive Committee of the CCP, respectively,” Guidon stated.
Guidon said that in recognition of their valuable role in the national democratic revolution, youth between the age of 15 and 18 in revolutionary base areas are trained under the supervision of mass organizations for the security and self-defense of their homes and communities. “They are civilian, much like the high school and college students that are given basic military trainings,” Guidon said.
“In the course of this civil war, the question on child soldier will always arise. But the revolutionary forces and the people can easily unmask the effort of the reactionary government to muddle the issue and capitalize their control over the mass media. The people are aware that nearly half a century of advancing the human rights and social justice while pursuing people’s war, the NDFP has risen above the Philippine Government in promoting and defending children’s rights and welfare,” Guidon ended. # nordis.net