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‘CHR not backing recruitment of child soldiers’

The Commission on Human Rights on Friday assured a group of parents that it "does not support the recruitment of child soldiers in armed conflict consistent with the principles of the International Humanitarian Law and other domestic pieces of legislation pertaining to the protection of children."

Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR lawyer-spokesperson, said concerned parents belonging to the Liga ng mga Magulang recently held a protest rally in front of the CHR central office in Quezon City, asking the commission to look into the alleged recruitment of minors to the Communist Party of the Philippines' New People's Army armed struggle.

She said they accommodated the group, led by Remedios Rosadio, along with Relissa Lucena, who was airing her grievances that her daughter, Alicia, could have been recruited and kept away by organizations linked to the communist group.

"CHR, as independent national human rights institution, tirelessly advocates that everyone be given the opportunity to enjoy and exercise the full extent of their rights. But, at the same time, we equally stress that such exercise of rights has limitations, especially if it veers away from the precepts of the rule of law," she said.

"As such, while CHR supports activism as an exercise of one's freedom of speech and expression, we do not support armed conflict," she added.

De Guia vowed that the CHR would always stay impartial in the performance of their mandate.

"Faithful to its mandate, CHR will continue to be open to all persons—regardless of their race, color, gender, creed or political affiliation—who continue to seek truth in every human rights violation," she said in a statement.

"The public can always expect independent and impartial investigations, including alleged cases minors being recruited to take part in armed conflict by any group, as well as on working on concrete policy reforms and recommendations for government to consider and apply to improve the protection of children in the Philippines," she added.

De Guia said they would never be intimidated nor be allowed to be used by any person or group.

"CHR will continue to speak out against abuses and violations even if it is unpopular. With our strong commitment to our independence and to the rule of law, CHR will not be weaponized by any party or group. We shall remain in service of human rights and dignity of all," she said.

Meanwhile, the militant ACT Teachers Party-list group  has urged  the House of Representatives to investigate the legality of the Kabataan Kontra Droga at Terorismo dialogues, lectures, and seminars of the Philippine National Police in various high schools, which it claimed violated the "safe schools principle" of the Department of Education.

"The 'Kabataan Kontra Droga at Terorismo'   program of the Philippine National Police is said to be in accordance with the campaign against illegal drugs and terrorism of the government but reports from teachers and students who have seen and heard their seminars and lectures described the seminars as nothing but a program that adheres to Executive Order 70 or the Whole-of-Nation approach which built the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict [NTF ELCAC]," Rep. France Castro, of Act Teachers, said after filing  House Resolution 737.

Castro said their seminars contain vilification, red-tagging and terror tagging of progressive individuals and organizations targeting elementary and high school students.

These lectures of the PNP brainwash children and the youth into thinking that activities protected by free speech such as voicing out dissent and critiques to the anti-people policies of the government is wrong and illegal, discouraging them to practice critical thinking, she said.

"The PNP has been using this program to enter public schools to spread black propaganda against progressives and the opposition and urges the youth to function as spies for the PNP," Castro added.

The PNP  policemen come to schools in uniform and teach  the children “their lies and brainwashing attempts,” she said.

The move of the PNP to enter public schools is against the government's mandate to comply with the principle of safe schools especially in elementary and high schools.

The Department of Education already has DepEd order 32, series of 2019 or the National Policy Framework on Learners and Schools as Zones of Peace and DepEd order 40, series of 2012 or the Child Protection Policy that reiterates the declaration of schools as 'zones of peace' meaning police and military are not allowed to enter the premises of the schools, Castro said.

"KKDAT activities poses actual threats to the security and peace of the learners because of the presence of police inside their school premises. Their mere presence subjects children to various psychological stresses whether they are in uniform or not whether they are armed or not," Castro stated.

"There have already been memos from the PNP directing the profiling of Muslim students in school, what more can they do if they are allowed to enter schools and conduct such lectures to students. Their aim is to use these children as spies in eradicating illegal drugs. Children go to school to learn basic skills and their lessons in their subject. It is not their job or their responsibility to become spies for the Philippine National Police,” she said.

Castro said the  Philippine National Police has accused educators of brainwashing the youth many times and has tagged them as terrorist for simply doing their job to encourage curiosity, furthering human knowledge using critical thinking, and passing on learnings from history with the benefit of context, hindsight and guided analysis.

“With the KKDAT program of the PNP, who now sounds like teaching and which one sounds like brainwashing? Who are they to lecture in schools and 'teach' the children what is wrong and who is 'bad' when all they have done is to kill thousands of innocent lives and violate basic human rights of those they are supposed to serve and protect?”  Castro said.

"We urge the House Leadership to investigate this matter as the lives, safety and security of the youth is at stake as the Kabataan Kontra Droga at Terorismo of the Philippine National Police continue to conduct seminars, dialogues and lectures in various high schools, violating the 'safe schools principle' of the Department of Education," Castro added.

Topics: Commission on Human Rights , International Humanitarian Law , Jacqueline Ann de Guia , Philippines' New People's Army
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