CHR clarifies: We support activism, but not recruitment of children as combatants
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has clarified that while it supports activism and the right to free expression, it does not tolerate armed rebellion and the recruitment of children as combatants.
This statement from CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia on Friday came after an anti-communist group — the Liga ng mga Magulang (league of parents) — staged a protest at the CHR’s headquarters in Quezon City.
The group lashed out at the alleged recruitment of child combatants by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army’s (CPP-NPA) for its armed struggle. The CHR said the protesting parents were invited inside their office for a dialog during the protest.
“In response, we wish to stress that CHR does not support the recruitment of child soldiers in armed conflict consistent with the principles of the International Humanitarian Law and other domestic pieces of legislation pertaining to the protection of children. The concerned parents were also assured of this fact,” De Guia said.
“As such, while CHR supports activism as an exercise of one’s freedom of speech and expression, we do not support armed rebellion,” she added.
Among the protesters were parents of Alicia Lucena, the alleged missing activist who was supposedly recruited by the youth group Anakbayan. The group is claiming that Anakbayan is merely an entry point for young people to join the communist movement.
“After the protest, representatives of the said group, led by Remedios Rosadio, were welcomed inside CHR’s premises for a dialogue. Relissa Lucena was also given the opportunity to air grievances after her daughter Alicia was said to have been recruited and kept away by organizations, which the Liga ng mga Magulang claims to have links with CPP-NPA,” De Guia noted.
“CHR, as an independent national human rights institution, tirelessly advocates that everyone is given the opportunity to enjoy and exercise the full extent of their rights. But, at the same time, we equally stress that such exercise of rights has limitations, especially if it veers away from the precepts of the rule of law,” she said.
Lucena previously appeared in a Senate hearing, giving a tearful account of how her daughter was supposedly tricked into joining the communist rebels. The testimony drove several senators, including former police chief Senator Ronald dela Rosa, to condemn the acts of militant organizations.
However, Alicia refuted her mother’s statements, asserting that nobody forced her to join Anakbayan and to leave home. She also narrated that she was brought to different police and military camps just to prevent her from participating in the group’s activities.
According to CHR, they would continue to check on incidents that would merit investigation from the human rights body.
“Faithful to its mandate, CHR will continue to be open to all persons—regardless of their race, color, gender, creed, or political affiliation—who continue to seek truth in every human rights violation,” De Guia said.
“The public can always expect independent and impartial investigations, including alleged cases minors being recruited to take part in armed conflict by any group, as well as on working on concrete policy reforms and recommendations for government to consider and apply to improve the protection of children in the Philippines,” she added.
Edited by MUF
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