The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/67/845–S/2013/245) issued on 15 May 2013.
During the reporting period, the country task force recorded 11 incidents of recruitment and use of children, involving 23 boys and 3 girls between 12 and 17 years of age. That figure represents a decrease in 2012, given that there were 26 incidents affecting 33 boys and 21 girls in 2011. Of those cases, 2 were reportedly recruited and used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, 11 by the New People’s Army (NPA), 11 by the Abu Sayyaf Group and 2 by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
That an action plan was signed between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the United Nations in 2009 notwithstanding, Front base commands continued to provide training, weapons and uniforms to children and to use them as guides, messengers and porters. In July 2012, a 16-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl were recruited by the 103rd Base Command in Lanao del Sur Province, provided with martial arts training and used for weapons maintenance. Although the United Nations has no access to the areas under the control of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led by Commander “Kato”, the country task force continued to receive credible reports that the armed group was actively training and providing weapons to children.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political wing of NPA, continued to claim that it did not recruit children as combatants, but admitted that it recruited, trained and used them for non-combat purposes. Children continued to be killed and injured as a result of their affiliation with NPA in 2012. On 26 August 2012, for example, the country task force verified the killing of a 17-year-old NPA fighter during hostilities with the national armed forces in Paquibato district, Davao City.
The country task force also verified two incidents of recruitment and use of children by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu and Basilan, involving at least 11 boys between 13 and 16 years of age. On 14 September 2012, for example, a 13-year-old boy armed with an M-203 grenade launcher was killed during an armed encounter with the national armed forces in Sumisip municipality, Basilan Province.
The United Nations remained concerned over the use of children by the national armed forces as guides and informants during military operations. In a verified case in July 2012, the Fifty-Seventh Infantry Battalion forced two boys aged 12 and 13 years to serve as guides to locate an NPA camp in North Cotabato Province. Upon notification of the incident, the national armed forces initiated an investigation on 20 March 2013. During the reporting period, it was also observed that the national armed forces continued to release names and pictures of children to the media, labelling them as members of armed groups.
In 2012, the country task force documented 66 cases of killing and maiming of children, of which 4 reportedly implicated the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, 3 NPA, 1 the Abu Sayyaf Group, 14 the national armed forces and 44 unidentified perpetrators. As a result of the attacks, 29 children were reportedly killed and 37 reportedly injured. There were no clashes between the national armed forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2012. Most cases involving the Front related to internecine conflicts within Moro communities. During the reporting period, NPA conducted high-profile attacks on the national armed forces, often at the cost of the civilian population. On 1 September 2012, for example, NPA fighters of the Merardo Arce Command threw a grenade at a military outpost in a civilian community, injuring more than 50 persons, including 12 boys and 9 girls between 4 and 17 years of age.
In the course of their counter-insurgency campaign, the national armed forces were reportedly involved in indiscriminate attacks on civilian residences where NPA fighters were allegedly present. In a verified case, two boys aged 8 and 13 years were killed and a 5-year-old girl injured when the Twenty-Seventh Infantry Battalion strafed a house in Kiblawan municipality, Davao del Sur Province, on 18 October 2012. Following the incident, the national armed forces relieved and restricted to their barracks an officer and 11 enlisted personnel, who, at the time of writing of the present report, were undergoing pretrial investigation by the General Court Martial.
In 2012, incidents continued to occur in which schools were damaged in the course of hostilities. In July 2012, fighters from the Abu Sayyaf Group partially burned down Tipo-Tipo Central Elementary School in an effort to distract a military pursuit by the national armed forces after skirmishes in Sumisip municipality, Basilan Province. In August 2012, four schools were reportedly damaged by crossfire during armed encounters between the national armed forces and BIFF in Datu Unsay.
The military use of schools remained a concern. In four verified incidents, the national armed forces stationed military units in public elementary schools in Mindanao. In June 2012, the country task force verified that three units of the national armed forces had established a detachment next to Salipongan Primary School in Tugaya municipality, Lanao del Sur Province, resulting in the closure of the school for two weeks.
Since the expiry of the action plan between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the United Nations in July 2011, after two years of implementation, the signing of an addendum to extend the action plan remains pending. A significant delay in its implementation notwithstanding, the Front continued to express commitment in principle to the action plan. Recent progress in the peace talks between the Front and the Government, which resulted in the signing in October 2012 of a framework for a comprehensive peace agreement, may accelerate, with the support of the international community, the full implementation of the action plan, including the reintegration of children into civilian life. The framework agreement ensures specific social protection mechanisms for vulnerable groups, with particular emphasis on women and children in Bangsamoro areas.
In January 2012, a United Nations technical team met members of the NDFP negotiating panel for an initial discussion on child protection concerns. NDFP continued to deny that NPA had children in its ranks, but clarified its position that children of 15 years of age and older might be assigned to NPA self-defence and other non-combat units. On 29 June 2012, NDFP issued a unilateral declaration and programme of action on the rights, protection and welfare of children, in which it refuted the listing of NPA in the present report and rejected the application of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict to non-State armed groups and the Paris Principles. The activities put forward in the declaration do not include provisions on United Nations access and compliance monitoring.
I am pleased to note that the Government is finalizing the implementation of the monitoring, reporting and response system to prevent and respond to specific incidents of grave violations against children. The national armed forces are also preparing draft guidelines on the conduct of operations inside or within the immediate premises of schools and hospitals, which are expected to be launched as an operational directive during the first half of 2013. In addition, with regard to the use of children during military operations, the national armed forces have issued directives prohibiting such use of children, assigning responsibility to commanders, institutionalizing investigations and putting in place corrective measures.
Parties in the Philippines
- Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) (a)
- Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005) (a)
- New People’s Army (NPA) (a)