Slams AFP for old gimmick of abducting "child soldiers"
By Fr. Santiago "Sanny" Salas
Spokesperson, NDFP-Eastern Visayas
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas today assailed the Armed Forces of the Philippines for abducting a child who is now misrepresented as a "child soldier" of the New People's Army.
"The NDF-EV condemns the 8th Infantry Division for abducting a 12-year-old child from Brgy. Montalban, Matuguinao, Western Samar, and further violating his rights by revealing his real name (Joel Selvestre) to the media," said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago Salas. "The 8th ID is fabricating the story that Joel is an NPA combatant to cover up their successive losses and the complete failure of Oplan Bantay Laya in Eastern Visayas. The 8th ID is not concerned with the rights of children at all, but violates these by using children for psywar as NPA "child soldiers".
"The purpose of such psywar is to malign the NPA and justify attacks on communities suspected of supporting the NPA . By maligning the NPA as recruiting children, the 8th ID shows that it is as vicious as US Gen. Jacob Smith, who during the Filipino-American War ordered his troops to execute males at least 10 years old who could bear arms. As many as 50,000 died in Samar largely because of that order. By rehashing the non-issue of NPA "child soldiers", the 8th ID is actually pushing to license its "all-out war" under Oplan Bantay Laya, under which it is civilian communities that really suffer."
The NDF-EV spokesperson added that, "Since 1988, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army have forbidden recruiting those below 18 as combatants, even before the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The NDFP has also often clearly stated that its policy and the laws of the people's democratic government prohibit the NPA from recruiting combatants below 18. Thus the Philippine government, with support from the US and its international instruments, have always failed to make the charges of NPA "child soldiers" stick. For example, in 2000 there was the well-known case of Edfu de la Cruz, whose family was massacred by the 43rd IB in Southern Leyte and who was abducted, tortured, illegally detained and humiliated by the 8th ID before the press as an NPA "child soldier". Edfu was only released on on the strong demands of the NDFP in the peace talks and because of public anger after details of his ordeal came out."
Fr. Salas also called on advocates of human rights and children's rights to immediately investigate and press for the release of Joel Silvestre. "Concerned advocates for human rights and children should work to free Joel from further abuse and indefinite detention by the military and the Philippine government. This incident shows that the 8th ID is panicking and resorting to dirty tricks, because the NPA is capable and on the moral high ground in defeating Oplan Bantay Laya and the widely despised Arroyo administration. Thus the military and the Arroyo regime are now inventing various justifications for Oplan Bantay Laya's "all-out war" and other efforts such as the Con-ass, all of which ultimately aim to keep the regime in power beyond 2010."