ZAMBOANGA CITY: The military has condemned the continued recruitment of minors by the communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA) to be used as combatants in fighting the democratic government.
Lt. Gen Ricardo Rainier Cruz 3rd, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the NPA has been arming their young recruits and forcing them to fight security forces.
“This is a clear violation of the CARHRIHL, arming and forcing children to become rebels. Exploiting the youth’s innocence to become criminals is even tantamount to violation of RA 7610 which provides children with special protection against exploitation,” he said.
Cruz was referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the first substantive agreement by the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, signed in 1998 in The Hague.
He said their data showed that many of the NPA rebels who surrendered to the military were teenagers.
“Let us give our youth the chance to grow up while peacefully learning from their youthful experiences and contributing in their own unique ways, as only the young can do, in building a peaceful and progressive Philippines,” Cruz said.
He urged rebels to return to the fold of the law and avail of the govern-ment’s livelihood program. “We will work with other stakeholders to ensure your safety and well-being and that of your family,” Cruz said.
Just recently, four NPA rebels, who were recruited in their teens, had surrendered to the 43rd CMO Company led by Lt. Leah Pura in Bukidnon province in northern Mindanao.
Cruz said Pura facilitated the surrender of the rebels—Digo Antian, now 23; Jun- Jun Calimpit, now 25; Robert 18; and Jhen, 15. He said Robert was recruited at 16 and Jhen when she was 13.