Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Children's groups protest, demand respect for human rights in Mindanao

Children join a protest Tuesday, September 14, 2010 in Davao City in the southern Philippines to dramatize their demands for respect to human rights. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Karlos Manlupig)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 14, 2010) - Children’s advocate groups have staged a rally Tuesday in the Mindanao city of Davao in the southern Philippines to dramatize their demands for respect to children’s rights by security forces in Mindanao.

Organizers said the military often tagged minors suspected or accused as supporters of rebel groups as “child soldiers” and worse, some of them had been arrested or killed by troops in counter-insurgency operations.

The rally was spearheaded by members of the Children's Rehabilitation Center and KABIBA Alliance for Children's Concerns in Mindanao. At least 10 children also joined the dozens of advocates during the rally.

Organizers said security forces should respect the rights of the children as the protesters condemned the tagging of children as “child soldiers.”

“We only want respect for human rights for these children who are innocent and had been dragged into this counter-insurgency operations by the military,” one protester said by phone.

Organizers said just this year, three minors, two girls from Monkayo town in Compostela Valley and a boy in Makilala town in North Cotabato province was tagged as New People’s Army child soldiers and had been subjected to mental torture and forced to admit they were rebels.

The protesters claimed that it has now become a habit of the military to tag children-victims of rights violations as “child soldier” apparently to escape from their accountability and at the same time misrepresenting them as such for their war propaganda. They said the senseless yet brutal campaign of Oplan Bantay Laya is not only targeting perceived enemies of the State, but innocent children as well.

Oplan Bantay-Laya is the codename of the military’s anti-insurgency campaign in the country.

The groups also demanded justice for Grecil Buya, the nine-year old girl, who was killed by government soldiers in an alleged clash with communist rebels in 2007 in Compostela Valley.

Buya’s family said the girl was only fetching water from a river when soldiers opened fire on her. She was shot in the head.

The rally, which was also participated by human rights groups Hustisya and Karapatan, last about two hours. (With a report from Karlos Manlupig)

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