By Fr. SANTIAGO "Sanny" SALAS
Spokesperson, NDFP-Eastern Visayas
Other versions: Waray
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas said today that it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines that has concrete cases of abusing children in situations of armed conflict in the Philippines.
"We support the clarification made by Fidel Agcaoili, chairman of the NDFP Human Rights Committee, about the NDFP's protection of children," said Fr. Santiago salas, NDFP-EV spokesperson.
"He was correcting the malicious news in a national daily misstating the facts of a United Nations report, making it appear that the NDFP uses child combatants, though it was never said so. In the said UN report, it is in fact the AFP that is cited for documented cases of abusing children in situations of armed conflict. The NDF-EV can further shed light on the matter because the 8th Infantry Division has well-publicized cases on the matter in Eastern Visayas."
Fr. Salas said that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines continues to keep 17-year-old Michelle Adelantar in custody through the Department of Social Welfare and Development after her illegal arrest and detention by the 8th Infrantry Division of the Philippine Army.
"Michelle was abducted and detained last February 3 in San Jose de Buan, Western Samar by the 34th Infantry Battalion, merely because she was the child of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army. She still remains in DSWD custody with the complicity of the 8th ID even though she has civilian relatives who are ready and willing to take her in and have in fact long demanded her release.
"Col. Armand Rico, 8th ID spokesperson, recently stated over the 8th ID radio program he handles, the reason why the military wants Michelle detained: 'Her parents are NPA members, her siblings are NPA members.' This is unjust, illegitimate, arrogant and mean. This, as well as other statements by Col. Rico, serve as evidence of the AFP's violations of the rights of children in the armed conflict with the NDFP."
The NDFP-EV spokesperson added that another damning case of the AFP's child abuse is that of Joel "Dayucdoc" Silvestre, a mentally-handicapped 13-year-old from Brgy. Montalban, Matuguinao, Western Samar who was claimed by the 8th ID to be an NPA child combatant in June 2009.
"The GRP blatantly violated Joel's rights: soldiers took advantage of his mental handicap and tricked him so he could be taken into custody. The military then used Joel as a guide in their military operations; he was given a firearm and made to identify alleged NPA supporters in his community who were then interrogated and tortured. Furthermore, the 8th ID and DSWD also presented Joel to the media, divulging his real name and allowing photos and videos of him to be taken. Thus, aside from the ordeal they imposed on Joel, other innocent people also suffered and the public victimized with deception because of the military's stupid and vicious machinations."
Fr. Salas also called for justice for Michelle, Joel and other victims of human rights violations under the military's Oplan Bantay Laya.
"The NDFP-EV reminds the GRP that it will definitely be brought to account for violating the rights of Michelle Adelantar and Joel "Dayucdoc" Silvestre, which are well-documented and with many witnesses to attest the truth.
"We demand the immediate release of Michelle Adelantar. We demand justice for the victims of Oplan Bantay Laya. We demand the arrest, trial and punishment of the outgoing president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for widespread and gross human rights violations under Oplan Bantay Laya and other crimes against the people."