Military claims proof of NPA ‘child warriors’
MANILA, Philippines – Months after an international human rights group slammed them for allegedly fabricating stories of child recruits in the New People’s Army rebel group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines claimed that they have proof disproving these accusations.
In an interview with Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, he said that 19 of the 80 rebel returnees who surrendered in Bukidnon earlier this week were minors.
Burgos said the “former NPA rebels” were from 10 to 18 years old. Others who surrendered were 19 years old and have been with the rebel ranks for more than five years.
“This only validates and confirms the recruitment of children in the armed conflict which is against the law. This shows that they continue to exploit children,” Burgos said.
He added that military records showed that between the years 2000 to 2010, the NPA rebel group recruited at least 340 minors and were used in the rebels’ frontlines in Bicol, Batangas and Samar.
Burgos added that the NPA recruit children as couriers or messengers since they could easily evade police and military.
Those aged between 16 and 18 years old are taught how to use firearms and fight.
The 80 rebel returnees surrendered on Monday to the 8th Infantry “Dependable” Battalion last Nov. 14, 2011 at South Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon.
In a separate statement, Major Eugenio Julio Osias IV said that the young rebels were members of the Tigwahanon, Matigsalog and Manobo tribes from San Fernando, Bukidnon. The ages of the returnees were determined during the debriefing of the 80 former rebels.
He added that this also proved that the NPA has been lying since they have consistently denied having child warriors.
Last month, international human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, accused the Philippine Army of fabricating stories about child warriors in the NPA as part of its propaganda against the rebel group.
The military denied the allegations, saying that they have proof.
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