Child rights group to file torture raps against military

JERRIE ABELLA, GMANews.TV 03/29/2010 | 10:34 PM A child rights advocacy group is set to file cases before the Commission on Human Rights against the military for arresting three minors whom they allegedly tortured into admitting they are communist rebels. SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns said three children, including two 15-year-old girls and a 17-year-old boy, were arrested by elements of the Philippine Army in separate incidents in Compostela Valley and North Cotabato. According to SALINLAHI, the17-year-old boy was arrested on March 15 in North Cotabato for his alleged involvement in a landmine attack in Makilala town. The group, however, said Allen was mistaken for another suspect who was reported to have been wearing a similar orange-colored short. The boy turned out to be a child laborer in a local rubber plantation and was on his way home for lunch when the incident happened, the group added. He was released on March 16. In earlier reports, 602nd Brigade Commander Col. Alejandro Estomo said the boy was apprehended for being among those who detonated a landmine on a military vehicle carrying troops of the 57th Infantry Battalion morning of March 15. The attack was blamed on the communist New People’s Army (NPA). Meanwhile, two other 15-year-old were arrested in Moncayo town in Compostela Valley who were likewise tagged as “amazonas” (woman warriors) of the NPA. The two were arrested on March 7 and were released three days after. “These false claims are proof that military has not stopped their tact of branding children victims of human rights violations as child soldiers. We have fact sheets to prove that these children were arbitrarily arrested and subjected to torture to force them to admit that they are members of the NPA,” said SALINLAHI spokesperson Sophia Garduce. She said Allen was detained and tortured to force him to admit that he was one of those who set up the landmines. “The military tied the boy like a pig and poked a knife into his neck and struck him on his back with the rifle butt,” Garduce disclosed. A fact-finding mission by KABIBA Alliance for Children’s Concerns, SALIHLAHI’s counterpart in Mindanao, found out that the two were among the 13 upland farmers who were tending to their farms when they were accosted by elements of the 25th Infantry Battalion. The group said the two were presented to the court only on March 11, 2010, a violation of Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Welfare Law. “They were illegally detained for more than 36 hours and subjected to mental torture. The military even made up a story that one of the minors is pregnant,” Garduce said, adding that it was not the first time that the military has targeted children in its counter-insurgency program. She cited the case of nine-year-old Grecil Buya, who was killed in an encounter between government troops and the NPA on March 31, 2007. The military claimed Buya was a “child soldier”. SALINLAHI and KABIBA filed cases on March 26 before the Joint Monitoring Committee, which monitors the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. The agreement was signed by the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front in 1998. Calls to Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos went unanswered. – KBK, GMANews.TV