Sunday, October 20, 2019

Army general condemns NPA recruitment of ‘child-warriors’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 20, 2019): Army general condemns NPA recruitment of ‘child-warriors’

Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, which covers the Southern Tagalog and Mimaropa regions, strongly condemned the alleged recruitment of “child-warriors” by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

In a report on Sunday, Capt. Jayrald Ternio, head of the public affairs office of the 2nd ID, disclosed said three minors, one them a 17-year old girl, were among the 26 NPA rebels that surrendered to the government this week.

“We condemn in the strongest sense the NPAs’ evil act of violating our children’s innocence,” Burgos said.

According to him, “there are written and unwritten rules in warfare” that protect women and children in armed conflict.

“No form of explanation will justify this dastardly act of putting Filipino minors in harm’s way,” Burgos said.

Quoting the admission of the girl surrenderer, Ternio said: “She was forced by the rebels to join their ranks after she was forbidden to leave a terrorist camp when she accompanied her friend in an exposure.”

There were no means, however, to immediately verify the claims of the military and the narrative of the rebel returnees.

The supposed child-warriors were brought to the attention of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for proper disposition and professional attention, Ternio said.

“So that the victims may quickly recover from the physical and psychological trauma that they suffered after being forced to carry arms despite their innocence,” he said.

Ternio said the names of the minors were being withheld not only to protect their privacy but also their security from possible NPA retribution.

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, commander of the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command, attributed the series of surrenders by NPA rebels to the recent activation of Quezon’s provincial task force to end the local communist armed conflict.

On Wednesday and Thursday, 26 former communist fighters — most of them Dumagat tribe members —operating in Quezon, Rizal and Laguna provinces surrendered to the police and military representatives in General Nakar town in Quezon.

The rebel returnees also surrendered 14 firearms and bomb-making materials.

Those who surrendered will enjoy the benefits of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-Clip, which offers livelihood financing, scholarships, housing and free legal assistance.

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