MANILA, Philippines— The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat) on Saturday warned groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and others involved in armed hostilities to stop recruiting children into their ranks.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Iacat chair, expressed alarm over reports that teenagers, some as young as 15 and 16, were among the casualties in recent skirmishes between government troops and BIFF guerrillas in Mindanao.
“Any form of recruitment of children to aid armed conflict is a reprehensible practice and is rightfully condemned by all nations,” said De Lima in a statement.
“Children used as combatants suffer in a number of ways, most of them suffer in silence. It is incumbent upon us to put an end to these horrors,” De Lima, a former head of the Commission on Human Rights, added.
De Lima said the leaders of the BIFF would likely face human trafficking charges under Philippine laws.
She cited Republic Act No. 9208, the 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which states that recruiting, transporting or adopting a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad is considered human trafficking.
This is elevated to “qualified human trafficking” if “by reason or on occasion of the act of trafficking persons, the offended party dies,” the law further states. Jerome Aning