Nation Signs UN Accord Banning Child Soldiers

Manila Bulletin, September 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Nation Signs UN Accord Banning Child Soldiers


Amid reports of children recruited by rebel groups fighting the government, the government has signed an optional United Nations agreement banning the involvement of children in armed conflicts.

At the recent threeday UN Millennium Summit in New York, President Estrada signed an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which increased the minimum age for children's recruitment into the armed forces and participation in armed conflicts from 15 to 18 years.

The Philippines is in the 1999 list of countries where there is evidence of children being used by rebel forces in ongoing or recent armed conflicts, according to a report made by lawyer Alberto T. Muyot of the United Nations Children's Fund- anila.

Citing the same list, he said "there is no reported use by government or government-supported forces of children as soldiers," but he noted media reports on the use of children in paramilitary units.

"Statistics show an even more alarming trend - about 20 to 25 percentof the recruits of the New People's Army (NPA) are children," he wrote in a paper, entitled Child Combatants: International Standards and Philippine Situation.

He added that photographs of children, including girls, in military uniforms inside Moro Islamic Liberation Front(MILF) camps have been published in newspapers. Both the New People's Army(NPA) and the MILF said that the children were being trained merely for "self-defense."

The case of the Abu Sayyaf has invited concern because the group, which drew international attention by kidnapping a multinational group of victims from a dive resort in Malaysia, has received substantial money and reportedly bought new guns, motorcycles, and other equipment. These are magnets for young people in the poverty-stricken areas of Basilan and Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf operates.

Article 1 of the optional protocol that. Estrada signed recently binds all states that are party to it to ensure that no person younger than 18 is recruited compulsorily into the armed forces. Other armed groups distinct from the states' armed forces are also barred from recruiting or using in hostilities, "under any circumstances," persons below 18.

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