By Rubi del Mundo
Spokesperson, NDFP-Southern Mindanao
On the occasion of the National Children's Month this October, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao expressed concern over the worsening plight of the children as relentless military operations continue to take place in Lumad and peasant communities in the region.
Naked truth shows that children are fair game to the US-Arroyo regime's Oplan Bantay Laya. At their tender age, the children are already victims to the different military atrocities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines particularly of the 10th Infantry Division.
Soldiers under the 60th Infantry Battalion-AFP are camped in communities and within the school premises in a Lumad school in sitio Dulyan, Talaingod causing trauma and disruption of children's classes and their learning process. In New Bataan, children are made to join the Barangay Defense System making them more than just human shields but also vulnerable military targets. In sitio Piasususan, Pantukan, more than 60 children were displaced after Scout Rangers launched operations in the area. In Brgy. Napnapan and Las Arenas, Pantukan, women and children suffered after soldiers ordered them to work longer hours in their farms; two pregnant women also died after they were deprived of medical attention. Children have fled with their families as massive militarization ensued in many communities in the region.
In many cases too, the military forcibly used children as guides during combat operations against the New People's Army. They suffer from the beating and other human rights violations. To avoid culpability whenever children are affected by military operations, the military merely considers them â€˜collateral damage' or worse, calls them child soldiers.
The AFP and the Arroyo regime has constantly trampled the children's rights. They have grossly violated the rules of International Humanitarian Law and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) entitling children to full protection from hostilities arising from military operations.
The Arroyo regime neglected likewise the rights of the children by depriving them of education and of decent and safe place to live. More than 160,000 children in the region are child laborers.
Under a bankrupt and rotten state now being represented by the US-Arroyo regime, the children have certainly no bright future. The revolutionary movement, on the other hand, is building a society free of exploitation and oppression.