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Philippine News Digest 109

April 20, 2007 · 


-Davao Today — Philippines: ‘Child Soldiers’ Label Used by Military to
-Escape Accountability
-Family of ‘child warrior’ files criminal charges vs Army
-Anti-poverty group: Govt, WB estimates ridiculously low

Davao Today — Philippines: ‘Child Soldiers’ Label Used by Military to Escape Accountability

April 16, 2007
Reference: Renato Macaspac, Advocacy Officer, 0928 247-3737
Salinlahi Foundation, Inc.
Alliance for Children’s Concern
PO Box 1580-1155
QCCPO 1100 Q.C.

“Child Soldiers” Label used by the Military to Escape Accountability over Cases of Children Victims of Human Rights Violations”

Obedient, playful and fun-loving. These are characteristics typical of rural children like Grecil Buya Galacio, 9 years old. She had cherished the start of the summer vacation because this meant days of helping her mother in her house chores, playing with her younger siblings, and swimming in the nearby creek. But on that fateful day of March 31, 2007, Grecil’s childhood had ended. Members of the 28th and 67th Infantry Brigade based in Compostella Valley had shot Grecil during an encounter with members of the New People’s Army in Purok 6, Barangay Kahayag, New Bataan. With no remorse, the military immediately branded Grecil as a “child soldier” of the NPA as if labeling their victim as such could exenorate them from the accountability of such a gruesome act.

As an alliance of organizations concerned with the rights and welfare of children, Salinlahi issues the highest condemnation against this act by the government military troops especially since this is not the first time that they used the excuse of children being “child soldiers’ in violating children’s human rights.

* In February last year, the military arrested 12 youths, 2 of them minors, who were bound to watch a rock concert in Baguio City. The youths were detained for months and were charged with rebellion.

* A 14 and 15 -year old High School students, Aileen and Marjorie were shot in their thighs and injured in Baggao, Cagayan by members of the 21st IB PA. They were also branded as “NPA amasona’s” and charged with rebellion. They now fear that they could not continue their studies with a case filed against them.

* 3 youths, Jefferson, Kennedy and Joey, all 15 years old, were gathering coconuts when they were chanced upon by members of the 76th IB PA in Lopez, Quezon. They were tortured to force them to admit that they were members of the NPA. They were also charged with rebellion.

* 5 minors have been arrested and placed in the custody of the DSWD for being in a house where alleged NPA leaders were caught in Eastern Visayas
* 11 minors were arrested in Basilan while tending their farms. They were branded as Abu Sayyaf members and were detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan for more than 3 years now.

These cases make up only part of the hundreds of cases of children victims of human rights violations since Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came into power in 2001. There are 54 cases (49 of which are well-documented) of children killed by the military during operations. Till now, justice for these children has not been served.

Family of ‘child warrior’ files criminal charges vs Army
By Jeffrey M. Tupas
Mindanao Bureau

DAVAO CITY — The family of Grecil Galacio, the nine-year-old girl government troops shot and killed in operations against the New People’s Army, filed criminal charges against the military on Wednesday.

In their affidavit-complaint filed with the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Nabunturan town in Compostela Valley, the parents of Grecil named Lieutenant Francis John Gabawa of the 67th Infantry Battalion as the main respondent in the killing of the girl.

The military claimed Galacio was a child warrior of the NPA and that soldiers killed her during legitimate operations against the communist rebels.

Also accused with Gabawa are several John Does, the soldiers of the platoon who figured in the March 31 clash with the NPA in Barangay (village) Kahayag in New Bataan town.

About 300 residents in New Bataan joined a march rally, the first ever in the area, to call for the immediate pull out of military forces in the town and demand justice for the death of Grecil.

The rally was initiated by the New Bataan Farmers Association (NEFBA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Concerned Citizens for People’s Rights (CCPR), Bayan Muna-New Bataan Chapter and the human rights group Karapatan.

The rally was held in front of the military headquarters in the town.

Grecil’s father, Gregorio, said the case was their way of facing the military who, he said, has been was harassing them.

Gregorio said the military had threatened to charge him for supposed involvement with the New People’s Army (NPA) after telling the public how Grecil really died.

Because of the alleged harassment, Gregorio and his family left their home in Barangay Kahayag.

The family, backed by the human rights groups, faced the media here Monday and announced their plan to go to court. Athea Peñalosa, advocacy officer of Children’s Rehabilitation Center, said they would file a separate complaint against the military before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

“We have so far gathered data and many related information that will pin down the gross violation by the military [of the rules of] the conduct of war which resulted in the death of Grecil. We will certainly ask for an audience with international bodies including the Unicef,” she said.

“The case should not end with an apology, which is never enough,” she added.

But the military claimed the family of Grecil just being “used” by human rights groups to advance their agenda against the government.

Brigadier General Carlos Holganza particularly mentioned the group Karapatan as the one behind the family’s case against them.

“Kawawa naman sila. Ginagamit lang sila ng Karapatan pagkatapos ay iiwanan,” Holganza said. [I pity them. Karapatan is using them but will eventually leave them.]

Colonel Benito de Leon, spokesman of the 10th Infantry Division based in Davao City, said the family had the right to pursue any case against the military for the death of Grecil. But he said the family must provide the authorities with enough information about the allegation that the military was harassing them.

“They should report this to the authorities and provide specific information. We will take actions if there are specific details and basis,” de Leon said.

Anti-poverty group: Govt, WB estimates ridiculously low

An anti-poverty group said Thursday that Malacañang and World Bank both released wrong estimates on the poverty situation in the Philippines.

The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)-Philippines said the government’s claim that only 10.5 million Filipinos live on a $1 a day was not accurate.

The government released the figure to downplay World Bank’s estimate that 15 million Filipinos survive on less than $1 a day income.

GCAP-Philippines, however, said 50 percent of the Philippines’ labor force or at least 16.1 million Filipino workers earn P33.53 per day. It said that the income level hovers around the 2007 poverty threshold pegged at P40 per person per day as estimated by the National Statistical Coordination Board.

“This means that the workers’ low income, combined with skyrocketing prices of goods and services, fuels the rising poverty and hunger in the country,” GCAP-Philippines said in a statement.

“Whether it’s 10.5 or 15 million, these poverty estimates are still below the 16.1 million workers who are trying to make ends meet from their measly salaries. If we include informal workers in the service sector working as street vendors, pedicab drivers, wash-your car boys and those employed in private households, measurements both from the WB and the government would be grossly underrated” said Marivic Raquiza, GCAP-Philippines national coordinator.

Raquiza also scored the government’s negative reaction to World Bank’s statistics. She said it showed the government’s insincerity to fight poverty. “President Arroyo always tries to divert attention from the problem by reducing poverty statistics,” she said.

GCAP-Philippines said that there are indicators that are not used by the government to measure poverty and hunger in the country.

The group enumerated the unused poverty indicators:

=Everyday 12 Filipinos die of dirty water, and more than 90% of all sewage in the Philippines is untreated.
=75 Filipinos die daily from tuberculosis, a highly treatable and preventable disease.
=10 Filipino women die daily from childbirth-related complications because they do not have access to emergency obstetric care. We have among the highest maternal mortality rate (estimated at 172 per 100,000 live births) in Asia and the world.
=82,000 children under the age of 5 die every year; 16,000 of deaths are caused by inappropriate feeding practices.
=About 25 million Filipinos do not have access to potable water. This explains the vulnerability of the poor to water-borne diseases such as diarrhea—a leading cause of infant and child mortality.
=According to Department of Education, drop out rates in the elementary level increased from 9.82% (2004-2005) to 10.57 % (2005-2006), while in secondary level these rose from 11.30% (2004-2005) to 15.81% in the succeeding year.
=A 2001 study showed that over a third of people belonging to class E and over a 10th of those in class D make do with “substitute ulam (viand)”— such as salt, soy sauce, bagoong (salted fish paste), pork lard, soft drinks, or coffee–because they cannot afford to buy vegetables, fish, or meat. Instant noodles drowned in plenty of water now constitute a full meal for many families.
Raquiza said instead of applying “band-aid solutions,” the government should institute genuine agro-industrial plan to generate employment.

GCAP – Philippines, a local network of non-government and people’s organizations is part of an international anti-poverty alliance.



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