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‘Militants use kids to fight soldiers’

By ROY MABASA

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday confirmed that ISIL-linked armed groups such as the Maute and the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements in Mindanao are using children to fight as soldiers against the Philippine government.

Lorenzana said those who carry out the beheadings of hostages and prisoners of these terrorist groups are actually teenagers.

Recruited Maute members arrive at Department of Justice for the preliminary investigation on their rebellion raps in Manila, August 14,2017.(Czar Dancel)

Recruited Maute members arrive at Department of Justice for the preliminary investigation on their rebellion raps in Manila, August 14,2017.(Czar Dancel)

In an interview during the celebration of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Month held at the Department of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Pasay City, the defense chief said they have seen boys being used by these terrorist organizations as soldiers on the frontline.

“We see some teenagers who are already holding guns and being used by Maute and other lawless elements in Mindanao,” he said. “Kasama na ang mga Abu Sayyaf sa Basilan and Sulu, ginagamit talaga nila ang mga bata. In fact, ’yung mga pumupugot ng ulo doon mga teengers lang ‘yun.”

Armed groups in Mindanao have been using children in combat for decades. Most are sent to fight by their own families while other children are supposedly recruited through Quranic study sessions. The terrorist groups also recruit orphans – those whose rebel parents were killed in battle.

According to Sen. Richard Gordon, the use of children as soldiers is a violation of IHL.

“Tandaan ninyo, kahit na matanda na kayo pwede pa kayo ikulong dahil sa IHL violation,” said Sen. Gordon, a staunch advocate of IHL and the author of Republic Act 9851 which defines and penalizes violations of International Humanitarian Law and other crimes against humanity.

“Hindi puede gamitin ang bata sa giyera at yan ay mahigpit na ipinagbabawal at kinokondena ng inyong abang lingkod sapagkat walang kinalaman dapat ang bata sa giyera,” he added.

The IHL or Geneva Conventions of 1949 is a set of rules which place restrictions on the use of weapons and methods of warfare.

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