Senator Nancy Binay called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Marawi City officials and residents, and the media to confirm the reported use of child warriors by the Maute Group.
“The reported participation of children in the ongoing conflict in Marawi is seriously alarming. I’m asking the AFP, local officials, residents, and the media to confirm the presence of child warriors in Marawi,” Binay noted.
According to the lady legislator, it is inhumane and morally unacceptable to use children in armed combat roles, and expose them to extreme violence.
“If indeed the reports are true, I appeal to the military to do everything to spare the children. They are not combatants nor should they be treated as rebels. Sila din po ay mga biktima ng karahasan at maling ideolohiya. It is our moral duty to save them from the horrors of war,” the lady lawmaker added.
In war-torn zones, children are used as human shields, spies, messengers, or armed fighters.
“Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, we have an obligation to prevent those who have not reached 18 years old from taking part in the hostilities,” the senator stressed.
She added that under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 182, recruiting child warriors is one of the worst forms of child labor.
She also urged the military and police to immediately turn over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) child warriors that they will capture or intercept.
“Ito ay bilang pagsunod sa Section Three, Article XV of the 1987 Constitution na kung saan dapat pangalagaan ng estado ang karapatan ng mga bata laban sa mga pang-aabuso,” Binay said.
“Dapat ay nasa paaralan ang mga batang ito at hindi ginagamit bilang mga combatants ng anumang grupo. Ang mga maituturn-over sa DSWD ay kailangan agarang mag-undergo ng psychological debriefing upang maibalik sa normal na buhay,” the legislator added.
A policeman involved in the clearing operations in Marawi City said that the Maute Group is using children aged 10 to 16 years old. The children were reported carrying baby armalites and taking part at ambushes.
In the 16th Congress, the lawmaker filed Senate Resolution number 504 which urged the Senate to study the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in Armed Conflict, which came into force in 2002.
The measure aimed at further strengthening and improving legislation involving children’s rights, especially in the wake of child warriors being used by the BIFF, MNLF, and other militant forces in the country.