Hundreds of children and child rights advocates gathered at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman on November 20, in time with the celebration of the United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day.
Save Our Schools Network (SOS), Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concern and Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) called for an end to Martial Law in Mindanao, for the protection of children’s rights and the defense of ancestral land and Philippine territory.
Groups held a unity march around the campus, presented cultural performances from different children’s organizations and ended the day with ‘palarong pinoy.’
“Children’s Day is supposedly a celebratory day emphasizing how the government champions the promotion and protection of children’s rights, however, this is far from reality. The battle against all forms of abuses and violence against the Filipino children is far from over, especially that such is permitted by no less than the government and President Rodrigo Duterte himself,” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Rehabilitation Secretary General.
Bonganay also added that under Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, children and human rights violations are becoming more rampant, with most of the victims of extrajudicial killings coming from poor families.
Attacks on children
According to the data of CRC, seven children were killed under the Duterte administration, among them the two victims were massacred in Sagay, Negros Occidental along with seven farmers.
“Lester, a 14 year old child, survived the October 20 massacre in Sagay and a 10 year old lad survived a gunshot in Bukidnon last November 5, these gross human rights violations were all perpetrated by state agents, their paramilitary minions, and goons of landlords,” said CRC Officer-in-Charge Frances Bondoc.
The group also monitored 1,028 lives of children placed in great danger or even cases of frustrated killings, arising from direct shooting, aerial bombing, indiscriminate firing and strafing by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and government-backed paramilitary groups.
“From July 2016 to March 2018, a total of 136,945 children are victims of human rights violations from 447 incident of human rights violations involving children,” Bondoc said.
Bondoc also lamented that children’s rights has constantly been jeopardized as more children fall victims to counterinsurgency operations and war on drugs.
The incident last November 18 where five students of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. were rounded up by members of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army is a proof to this, Bondoc said. The report on the incident indicated that the teenagers were heavily interrogated and intimidated by the military. Also, the two male teens were physically assaulted by the army after failing to answer questions asked them and insinuated that they know the whereabouts of the New People’s Army.
“Children were not spared from threat, harassment, torture and other forms of violations especially in rural areas with extremely heavy military presence, like in Mindanao which is under Martial rule,” Bondoc disclosed.
Bondoc also lamented the case of the 15-year old teenager girl who was raped by a police officer allegedly in exchange for her parent’s liberty from drug cases.
Child rights advocates slam Xi Jin Ping visit
SOS hit the visit of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping. Groups said that Chinese interests in the Philippines are among the causes of human rights violations in the country, on Duterte’s backing for the exploitation of Philippines’ natural resources and selling of ancestral lands.
“We believe that the imposition of Martial Law and its extension is primarily aimed to suppressing the growing peoples’ resistance against continued plunder of natural resources, which have caused various forms of children’s rights violations especially among the Lumad and Moro communities,” said Rius Valle, Spokesperson of SOS.
Valle also added that instead of upholding Filipino children’s rights, Duterte is more interested in selling out the Philippines natural resources, land and territory to powerful capitalist countries such as China.
According to the group’s reports, many of the China-funded projects are located in Mindanao areas and they saw this as among the reasons for the Duterte administration’s push to extend martial law to ensure the uncontested implementation.
“The debt-driven Build, Build, Build projects of the government will only aggravate case of land grabbing and conversion, displacement of indigenous people and other human rights violations,” Valle said.
Meanwhile, Bonganay disclosed that the Indigenous people’s ancestral lands are plundered by big local and foreign companies of mining, logging and plantation. He insisted that this is a big insult to the Filipino people and shows how Duterte sells out Philippines sovereignty, territory and resources that deprives children brighter and prosperous future.
“Duterte will never succeed in grabbing our land much more in quelling the people’s resistance and the children’s resistance,” Valle concluded.