Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman and Civil Relations chief Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala on Monday said the military is alarmed at the resurgence of child-soldiers in the New People’s Army (NPA) especially in Eastern Mindanao.
“The latest child-soldier that surrendered to our troops is an 11-year-old boy from Mati City, Davao Oriental,” Kakilala said.
Kakilala refused to give the name of the victim but a separate report from the Eastmincom identified him as Michael Gabriel alias Dodong who “voluntarily surrendered to soldiers of the 60th Infantry Battalion while on security patrol in Barangay Camansa, Asuncion, Davao del Norte at 2 p.m. on May 9.”
Eastmincom data shows that Gabriel is the fourth minor to surrender since March this year.
The command’s spokesman, Captain Alberto Caber, said three minors who had earlier surrendered were aged between 14 and 17.
“Around 22% of NPA members are minors ages six 6 to eighteen 17 while around 74% are Indigenous People (IP) or Lumads in Eastern Mindanao area,” Caber said.
Caber said Gabriel is the 55th NPA member who surrendered this year.
Bunagan said Gabriel revealed to him he was 6 years old when recruited into the NPA.
“The boy had experienced 6 encounters with security forces in some parts of Davao del Norte and in Davao Oriental,” he said.
The boy allegedly also told him he was being used to plant landmines along military operation routes.
Bunagan said they are now coordinating the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for Gabriel’s custody.
“We are already coordinating with concerned local officials in order to locate the parents of Michael,” he said.