TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army has renewed its call to the New People’s Army (NPA) to stop engaging minors in their armed struggle against the government.
Maj. Gen. Camilo Ligayo made the appeal on Thursday after a rebel who recently surrendered disclosed there are minor combatants recruited by the communist group.
“Our young people should be in school and protected from all kinds of abuse. Imagine the trauma of a minor engaged in fighting, going hungry for days, lack of sleep and endless hiking for the ideology that has not helped even one NPA to succeed in life for almost 54 years," Ligayo said in a statement.
NPA surrenderer Anthony Encinas, 19, told soldiers he had two colleagues, both 17 years old.
Encinas, who yielded on Nov. 19, was a member of Bugsok Platoon, sub-regional committee Sesame for a year.
“If he was with 17-year-olds, they were probably recruited by a younger person. This is a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law,” Ligayo added.
Rule 136, Protocols I and II of International Humanitarian Law states "children must not be recruited into armed forces or armed groups".
Ligayo also appealed to the public to support and protect the welfare of children and help stop the recruitment of child combatants.
The military has been holding dialogues with parents and village officials living in vulnerable communities to help prevent recruitment activity among minors.
Ligayo said they are trying to identify parents of minors recruited by the NPA and will be tapped to convince their children to surrender.
The local task force to end local communist armed conflict has been meeting with school officials and teachers to protect the youth from the deceptive recruitment and radicalization by the Communist Party of the Philippines -NPA – National Democratic Front and their front organizations.
“While parents are working hard for the good future of their children, these rebels are still rampant in stealing children from parents who I think are now looking for and worried about the condition of their children,” Ligayo added.
The army official’s call is part of the Children's Month celebration this November.
Republic Act 10661 or the National Children’s Month Act commemorates the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on Nov. 20, 1989. (PNA)