News Release I Children serve as “collateral damage” in gov’t counterinsurgency program, group says

They may claim that they are targeting the New People’s Army, but the military in reality has included members of legitimate people’s organizations and innocent civilians as targets of its counterinsurgency campaign, according to the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement.

The Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement (SBPM), composed of human rights advocates, Church-based organizations, health workers and concerned citizens, is now on its 5th day of  mercy mission where the group provides ecumenical counseling, psychosocial intervention, medical and dental services, documentation, and cultural workshops to people in the war-torn areas of South Quezon and Bondoc Peninsula.

“In the course of our mercy mission, we have received reports from residents themselves of human rights abuses committed by military, police and paramilitary elements,” Orly Marcellana, spokesperson of the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, said.

Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, an independent human rights group and one of the conveners of the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement has documented at least 128 cases of rights abuses, which include incidents of torture, harassment, intimidation and enforced disappearances, allegedly committed by the military in the area since 2011.

“The women and children suffer the most in the government’s ruthless counterinsurgency operations. The children, especially, are traumatized by the presence of military troops, who brazenly barge into people’s houses to intimidate residents,” Marcellana said.

The group added that they specifically included a psychosocial program in its mercy mission to serve as a first aid to traumatized children. The group organized a crane-making lecture for children between six and 14 years old as a symbol of their desire for a just and lasting peace in their towns.

“When we ask them about what they think of the military, many of the children just burst out crying,” Marcellana said.

“If they are going after the NPAs, then they should go after the NPAs and spare the innocent civilians from their mindless war against the belligerent group. Innocent civilians already suffer enough from the poverty and misery that the government does not care to solve; they should not be forced to serve as collateral damage in this war,” Marcellana said.

In a separate statement, the Children Rehabilitation Center said that continuing militarization and the consequent violations on the rights of children in the countryside are clear proof that the government of Pres. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino II is not sincere in promoting and protecting children’s rights and welfare.

The CRC provided psychosocial services to children victims of human rights violations in the 8-day Mercy Mission being conducted by SBPM.

CRC was also one of those invited during today’s public launch of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Declaration and Program for the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children in Quezon City.

“As child rights advocates, we find this declaration of the NDFP stipulating their affirmation on the respect of children’s rights and program of action to be beneficial to children living in the context of armed conflict and also of the general Filipino children population.  This would be a challenge for the Government of the Philippines to provide and abide a similar covenant on protecting the rights and welfare of the children,” CRC said.

As of press time there were reports that local police in in the town of Catanauan halted the 15-vehicle caravan of SBPM.

The caravan is set to hold the second leg of Mercy Mission in Lopez tomorrow but the group said that military already sabotaged their activities as they learned that the Philippine Army talked to the Municipal Health Office and pirated the medicines and health workers allotted for SBPM by saying that government forces will be also be conducting a medical mission on the same date and venue.#

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