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Bulatlat journalist Anne Marxze D. Umil filed this story on the torture of five indigenous Lumad youth (including two children) by Philippine paramilitary forces:
“End tagging children victims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as child soldiers!” This is the call of child rights group Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) as two minors were arrested and were accused as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
According to a Davao Today report, on July 22, two minors BJ (not his real name), 17, and Arturo (not his real name), 16, along with their companions Rolang Sanglid, 19, and Rico Basilisco, 18, were arrested by the Bagani paramilitary forces at the highway of Kauswangan, Loreto, Agusan Del Sur.
The four, who are all Agusanon Lumad, were reportedly on their way to the local Comelec to register as first-time voters for the upcoming Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council) and barangay elections. According to the report, the three, except for Sanglid, were tortured by the Bagani forces and were threatened that they would be killed. They were accused of being members of the NPA. Sanglid was spared from the beating because a member of the paramilitary group that arrested them is his neighbor.
The two minors are now under the custody of the Social Welfare Department of Loreto, Agusan Del Sur. They are now facing murder charges filed by the paramilitary group. They were accused by the paramilitary group of killing Kauswangan village captain Ramon Diaganonon. Human rights group Karapatan in Mindanao is working for the release of the minors.
The arrest and torture of the minors were strongly condemned by child rights groups CRC and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns…
The CRC raised alarm over the recent cases of children being illegally arrested, tortured and tagged as members of the NPA by the elements of the AFP.
Ruiz blamed the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan for the increasing number of human rights violations committed against children. “This month alone two children were added to the increasing cases of branding children victims of human rights violations as child soldiers. Like the previous cases under Oplan Bayanihan, these children are civilians and in fact, victims of AFP’s rights violations,” Ruiz said in s statement.
Based on reports reaching the human rights group, the Bagani paramilitary forces and elements of the 26th IBPA have been making the rounds of Lumad communities, threatening residents and looking for suspected members of the NPA supposedly listed in their order of battle. Evacuations then ensued in at least four barangays including Kauswagan, Sabud, Mansanitas and San Mariano.
Manano said the affected communities were believed to be rebel-stronghold areas. “But civilians are the most affected by the military atrocities, especially the children. They even become the targets of attack of the AFP and state paramilitary forces.”
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan meanwhile, intends to push for an investigation into the reported torture of Lumad minors and the recent evacuation of families from the Agusanon Tribe, including the 224 children due to heightened military operations in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.
“Lumad families are forced to leave their homes and their sources of livelihood for fear of being accused as members or supporters of the New People’s Army. Counter insurgency operations under Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan repeatedly target far flung rural communities. This is not the first time that Lumad communities are displaced,” said Ilagan.
Manano criticized Aquino for remaining silent on issues of violations against children. “Not once have we heard Aquino reprimanding the military or making them accountable for their actions. As the commander-in-chief, we hold him responsible for the growing number of children being victimized by his Oplan Bayanihan scheme.”
The Gabriela solon also called for the immediate withdrawal of military troops in the area and the scrapping of Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. “Now, Lumad children have stopped going to school and their parents forced to abandon their farms further aggravating their poverty. The constant threat to their lives and the displacement of Lumad families and communities compel them to rebel against the state and state authorities.”