17-year old militia proof that Armed Forces of the Philippines recruits minors for combat duty

Army sergeant being held as prisoner-of-war by New People's Army

By RIGOBERTO F. SANCHEZ
Spokesperson, Merardo Arce Command
NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operational Command

The cat is finally out of the bag. Now it can be said without any shade of public doubt. That in its failed and defeated Operation Plan Bantay Laya II, the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines recruits and arms minors as combat pawns in its war against the people and the revolutionary forces. That what it accuses the people's army of doing turns out to be a matter of official policy in its ranks, long practiced in their counter-revolutionary theater.

What better proof than Juve Latiban (SN # CT-G09000182) of the paramilitary Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), a 17-year-old minor. As a combatant of the AFP and their paramilitary forces, he was arrested at a checkpoint put up by the Conrado Heredia Command of the New People's Army in sitio Mabatas, Barangay Upper Ulip, Monkayo, Compostela Valley Province on June 19.

Born on Oct. 7, 1992, he was not even 16 years old when recruited on October 2008 by one Pfc. Alvin Latiban of Brgy. Upper Ulip in Monkayo, Compostela Valley. Together with his batchmates that included 18 other minors, they underwent a 45-day training in the then 1001st Infantry Brigade-AFP headquarters in Brgy. Tuburan, Mawab, Compostela Valley.

Ceremonies held on Dec. 8, 2008 in the 72nd Infantry Battalion Company Post in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley officially admitted them as CAFGUs at a time when he barely turned 16 years old. He attested that he and the 18 other minors in his batch were given fake birth certificates by Pfc. Latiban. His own bogus birth certificate showed that he was born on 1990 instead of the factual 1992 so that it would appear that he was already 18 at the time of his training. He confessed that the 72nd IB-AFP trainors knew their actual ages. His first assignment was at the Philippine Army detachment in Brgy. Upper Ulip, Monkayo. Pfc. Latiban is now in the 10th Infantry Division.

But despite his combatant status in the AFP, the revolutionary NPA is not treating him as a Prisoner of War (POW), in consideration of his real and factual age. Instead, CAFGU Latiban is only temporarily under custody and shall be released if and when 10th ID-AFP chief Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza refrains from further putting stumbling blocks to his safe reunion with his family. And 10th ID-AFP spokesman Capt. Emmanuel Garcia ought to seize this chance to create even a specter of credence to their "social integration and peace and development" chatter by causing CAFGU Latiban's immediate re-integration with his family as a civilian youth and not as a minor-combatant.

Together, they should henceforth stop using minors in their desperate and dirty war versus the people. At the least, they and the others should be held accountable for this deliberate and condemnable violation that has the 10th ID-AFP's seal of approval undeniably marked on its face.

The AFP black propaganda machine goes out of its way to twist the truth. But the fact stands that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which wields absolute political leadership over the NPA has long been implementing a no-below 18 national policy in accepting full-time Red fighters mainly from the peasantry. It would be interesting how Gen. Holganza and Capt. Garcia concocts another tale to distort CAFGU Latiban's own story.

Also arrested and currently being held as a prisoner-of-war in compliance with the NDFP Unilateral Undertaking to Implement Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions is S/Sgt. Bienvenido Gentugao Arguelles Jr. (Serial No. 779878) of the 25th Infantry Battalion-AFP.

Proper procedures are being undertaken under the auspices of the Conrado Heredia Command-NPA custodial unit to ascertain possible acts of commission that may have violated people's rights and international humanitarian law in the course of Sgt. Arguelles' direct participation in the counterrevolutionary and anti-people war of the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

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