Army rescues child warriors
ARMY troopers in Surigao del Sur rescued three child warriors on Monday, a day after a firefight ensued with suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay Pung-on, San Agustin.
In an emailed statement, the 4th Infantry Division's 401st Infantry "Unite N' Fight" Brigade said the minors (names are withheld) were assigned to blow up land mines during encounters with government troops.
Two NPA members died on the said late morning gunfight between the rebels and the combined forces of the 29th, 36th, and 75th Infantry Battalions that lasted for an hour.
The NPA casualties were believed to be members of the Guerilla Front 19-B Northern Mindanao Regional Committee led by Aka Michi in the jungle area of Barangay Pung-on.
"This is concrete evidence that the NPA has been recruiting children and using them as warriors in the frontlines," said Colonel Romeo G. Gan, 401st Brigade Commander.
Interrogations made by the Army revealed that the children were recruited through "deceiving and offering" by letting them hold guns and money.
"They offered me a gun and money while I was fetching water and they wanted me to join them," said one of the children, aged 12 years old.
Major General Victor A. Felix, 4ID commander, expressed regret and condemned the use of children "as a tool for the NPA's own selfish goals."
"Under the Geneva Convention, children should be protected because they deserve to live a life away from violence. I again call upon the rebel group to spare our children and let them grow in peace. Kids are supposed to be in school and should be learning with the rest of its peers. What they are doing is inhumane, taking advantage of the child's innocence and teaching them to use weapons against another human being. I have given order to all field commanders for the protection of children they meet in skirmishes and to always uphold the respect of human rights especially the rights of women and children," Felix said in a statement.
Major Eugenio Julio C. Osias IV, division spokesperson and commanding officer of the 4th Civil-Military Operations "Kasaligan" Battalion, reiterated his previous statements that the NPA is getting desperate in its hopes of filling up its dwindling numbers.
"The rebels are running out of options in its recruitment campaign. We are asking the help of our communities to immediately report to authorities about such recruitment activities," Osias said.
The 4ID has been calling communist groups and terrorists to refrain from recruiting minors to join in battles. (sunstar)
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