Surigao Clashes Shed Light on NPA’s Illegal Recruitment of Child Soldiers
By Philippine Army
NSFA, Panacan, Davao City - The series of skirmishes between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Lianga, Surigao del Sur this week only exposed the NPA’s long practice of arming minors to join the armed struggle.
In an encounter on June 15, the Sub-Regional Sentro de Grabidad Southland, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) fired at the troops and detonated anti-personnel mine to evade the forces of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn) who were tracking them at vicinity of Sitio New Decoy, Diatagon, Lianga after the initial encounter with the same group the previous day.
The exchange of bullets lasted for about 10 minutes which led to the death of three NPA members identified as Lenie Perez Rivas, 38; Willy Salinas Rodriguez, 20, and a 12-year-old girl (name withheld).
LtCol. Benedict Harvey Gernale, Commanding Officer of 3SFBn said that the first encounter with the NPA transpired on June 14 around 2p.m. while a Special Forces Team was conducting security operations to verify the presence of armed group foraging for food in Sitio Tibog, Mabuhay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.
The troops were able to rescue a minor from the incident and brought her safely to the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur in coordination with the Philippine National Police.
This is not the first time that a minor was armed by the NPA as the data from EastMinCom revealed that 12.3% of the 1,691 former rebels that were profiled by the Command from 2016 to 2020 were minors. It was further found in the former rebels’ profiles that the average age of minors recruited by the NPA is 17, the youngest of whom was only 12 years old.
Brigadier General Oliver T. Vesliño, Acting Commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) and Joint Task Force Diamond, said that the AFP units under JTF Diamond will continue its relentless security operations against the CTG in Caraga Region to destroy the armed group and stop its resource generation and recruitment of minors.
EastMinCom Commander LtGen. Greg T. Almerol also said that this is an old trick of the NPA to tag their member as an ordinary civilian especially if the casualty happens to be a minor. “I am appealing to the hearts of the CPP-NPA-NDF to get real and stop recruiting children into the armed struggle. If they really have hearts, then they should know better that those children are meant to live their dreams. They have no place in the battleground,” LtGen. Almerol said.
EastMinCom is now preparing pertinent documents to file charges against the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF for violating the provision of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) which prohibits the use of children in armed conflict.
Meanwhile, five NPA members were killed, two were captured, and seven capitulated in various focused military operations launched by EastMinCom units since June 1 until press time. Fifteen firearms were also seized by the troops in these encounters.
LtGen. Almerol said that these focused military operations are part of the Command’s mission to clear barangays from the atrocities of the NPA and to ensure that the implementation of projects under the Barangay Development Program will go unhampered.