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20 child soldiers get scholarships

COTABATO City—For “giving up arms,” at least 20 child soldiers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) got educational benefits under a regional government program with international funding agencies, an official said.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has consistently denied it uses minors as combatants and that children seen inside rebel camps were of MILF fighters’ families.

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The MILF said its camps also double as communities for rebel fighters and their families.

But an official of an Australian government-funded education program had earlier said the children’s presence inside rebel camps was enough to consider them child combatants.

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Myra Ali, secretary of the regional labor office, said the child combatants would be provided training by the Technical Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

The program, she said, was being supported by the government’s foreign partners.

Rashad Hassan, US special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, earlier said that Washington supports programs that would lure away children from actual participation in conflicts.

Hassan noted that armed conflict in southern Philippines has, to some extent, enlisted young people into combat training and militia works, which, he said, is a cause for concern to everyone.

In Zamboanga City, the military raised an alarm over the recruitment of minors by the Abu Sayyaf.

The recruitment was uncovered with the arrest of a 12-year-old child during the November 14 raid by authorities on a suspected Abu Sayyaf lair in Sumisip, Basilan, according to Army spokesperson Major Harold Cabunoc.

The child, who is in Grade 4, has since been turned over to social welfare officials, he said.

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TAGS: child soldiers, Children, MILF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro rebellion, Philippines, Unrest
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