The entire revolutionary forces in NEMR firmly adhere to the NDFP Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children

Maria Malaya
NDF-Northeast Mindanao
June 29, 2012
The entire revolutionary forces in the North-Eastern Mindanao Region declare its firm adherence to the NDFP’s Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children. The revolutionary movement in the region has always been diligent in its observance of international humanitarian laws including Protocol II of the Geneva Convention and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. With this NDFP Declaration, we resolve to further improve, strengthen and advance programs of actions to protect and ensure the welfare of the children within the North-Eastern Mindanao Region.

The current semi-feudal, semi-colonial system has continuously victimized Filipino children. The reactionary government’s puppetry to foreign powers and its slavery to big foreign business has deprived the children of opportunities, exploited their vulnerabilities, violated their rights, and destroyed their futures.

In the areas within the North-Eastern Mindanao Region, children suffer from poverty, hunger and lost opportunities. Poverty forced children to become child laborers of logging companies, plantations and mining operations. The reactionary government itself reported that in 2001, 103,915 children ages 5-15 years old, were working as unskilled and manual labor in Caraga. With the ever worsening poverty, this number has increased. Because of hunger, children as young as five years old become log haulers, oil palm gatherers, coconut tree climbers, planters, harvesters, manual laborers carrying packages heavier than themselves. In May 30 of this year, children as young as 6 years old were caught hauling logs in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte. The increase of tourism has also resulted in the rising number of children victimized by human trafficking and prostitution. Child prostitution has grown in communities within operating mining companies and docking areas of mining vessels. At present Caraga Region is almost at par with the Davao Region with the number of human trafficking victims.

Inaccessible and expensive education under a semi-colonial and semi-feudal system has deprived children of their right to education. According to the reactionary government’s statistics, there is a 75.89 participation rate for basic education and only 48.70 participation rate for public secondary education in Caraga Region in 2009. For children who were able to attend school only 65.73% completed elementary education and only 64.88% of those who entered high school graduated. In barrios with government public schools, residents who joined the NPA were either unschooled or have difficulty reading and writing. For these communities, education is not truly free and unable to cope with rising school fees, children are forced to work instead of acquiring an education.

Communities, who through their own efforts and with the help of non-government developmental organizations and their people’s organizations, have established schools are target of militarization further disrupting the education of children. This year alone 138 schoolaged children from 11 lumad and peasant communities of Surigao Norte and Agusan Norte were deprived of school when their community along with 8 others, evacuated because of intense combat operations by 4th ID, 402nd Bde and 30th IB PA troops.

Communities located within and around mining areas and plantations with people’s organizations that oppose the entry and continued operation of such companies are militarized. Aquino’s “investment security forces” launch clearing operations and enter communities under the guise of COPD. Families are being driven away from their homes and livelihoods. Lives are put in danger by bombings, shelling, indiscriminate firing, harassments and threats of the mercenary Armed Forces of the Philippines. Community economic activities are disrupted. Under the US-Noynoy Aquino regime there have been five instances of massive evacuation of peasant and lumad communities affecting at the very least, 25 communities in 7 municipalities within the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte. Such displacement of communities victimized hundreds of families and thousands of individuals including children.

Harassment, threats and torture against civilians and children precede such evacuations. In October 2010, then 14 year old Josemar Dayola was among the 8 civilians from Mahaba, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur who were interrogated, hogtied, dragged and tortured at gunpoint by operating Scout Rangers and troops of the 29th IB PA. They were forced to give information about the NPA. The child was threatened to be killed and was made to choose between being buried alive or pushed off a helicopter when he failed to provide information. In December of 2011, siblings 11 year old Rambie Jr. and 10 year old Raven Callao along with 16 year old John Michael Roces were physically assaulted, threatened and forced by the COPD troops of the military in Brgy. Mabuhay, Tandag, Surigao del Sur, to give information about NPA activities within their community.

Under Oplan Bayanihan, children in the region were falsely accused and declared to the media and the public by the military as NPA fighters. In June 2011, three children from San Agustin, Surigao del Sur, aged 10 and 16 were detained, physically assaulted, tortured and accused as members of the NPA by the operating 4th ID and 401st Brigade and 29th IB PA of the AFP. The children were seized while they were gathering coconut in their farmland. The military claimed that the three were “child warriors… in charge of the landmines” during an ambush by the NPA against military troops. Despite witnesses and evidences negating the military’s claims, the children were only returned to their parents after they were declared as “child warriors” in the media.

The military has tried to vilify the NPA with allegations of recruiting minors. In May 2011, 20 year old civilian Richard Paras was ambushed and killed by operating troops of the 402nd DRC in Lingin-Bato, Padiay, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur. Richard was on his way home and was resting and using his cellphone when military troops chanced and fired upon him. To cover their blunder, the military declared Richard Paras as a minor aged 17 and a member of the NPA despite the protests and evidence provided by the child’s parents, community members and barangay officials. The military then accused the NPA of recruiting minors.

The military however, was exposed as recruiters of children when a 16 year old CAFGU named “Peryong” was killed during a military operation last June 7, 2011 in San Isidro, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The military tried to hide the fact that “Peryong” was a member of the CAFGU under the 29th IB PA but the parents of the child proclaimed “Peryong” as having been recruited by the military when he was 16 years old.

These are just but a few of the crimes committed against children by the reactionary US-Aquino Regime and its mercenary forces.

The revolutionary movement on the other hand, has respected the rights of children, implemented programs to promote their interests and provided them opportunities for development. In the course of waging the national democratic revolution the NPA has implemented programs and endeavours within its areas that ensure children’s rights and welfare are upheld and that opportunities for their development are accessible.

The children within the mass base areas have directly benefitted from agrarian revolution achieved through the organizing and consolidation by Red Fighters. In organized areas, communal farms have been established and a self-reliant economy has been started. The need for food and other needs are slowly being fulfilled. Highest priority is given to provide children within NPA areas with opportunities for advancement.

Literacy schools have been built, providing the children with education and skills for development. In one NPA consolidated area of 21 lumad communities with a population of 7,000, all school-aged children receive basic education and a majority are able to go to highschool. These highschool graduates go back and serve in their communities and further develop education and health of the children in the communities. In these areas, NPA recruits have been educated. Such achievement is in the process of being replicated in other consolidated areas.

In base areas there are sports and cultural development for children and health management system has been set-up. The NPA in North-Eastern Mindanao has been conscientious with its implementation of recruitment policies for Red Fighters. Recruitment and acceptance to the NPA can only be done to those aged 18 years and above.

The revolutionary forces in North-Eastern Mindanao Region will continue to advance and protect the rights and welfare of children as embodied in the NDFP’s Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children. It will implement conscientiously the program of actions listed in the declaration and would set up the necessary instrumentalities for its realization. It will immediately initiate massive education campaigns of said declaration among the masses, Red Fighters and the entire revolutionary forces in the region.

June 15, 2012