Philippines

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.

In March, the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a comprehensive agreement on the Bangasamoro that includes a transition plan on normalization towards the eventual decommissioning of the MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). The Government also continued to enhance the monitoring, reporting and response system to institutionalize the response to child rights violations. Meanwhile, the emergence of breakaway armed factions and localized community feuds involving armed elements continued to affect children. As at March 2015, intensive fighting was continuing between the Government and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Noting that child recruitment is mostly likely underreported since communities are apprehensive about sharing information for fear of reprisals, the United Nations verified the recruitment and use of seven boys, as young as 9 years of age, by the New People’s Army (NPA) and ASG, marking a decrease from the 20 verified cases in 2013. For example, among the five boys recruited and used by ASG was a 9 -yearold boy who was used as a weapons porter for approximately 18 months. After escaping, he was shot dead. ASG had previously told his family that the boy would be killed if he left. The recruitment of two boys by NPA, aged 15 and 16 years, was reported by their parents. The municipal police launched an investigation but the recruiter remained at large and an arrest warrant was issued.

Local communities continued to note that armed groups, including NPA and reportedly ASG, approached civilians including children, for recruitment purposes, offering them shelter, food, access to education or offering to support communities. In response, parents reportedly sent their children to urban centres for their protection.

On 3 July, a 14-year-old boy and his father were arrested by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Maguindanao, allegedly on suspicion of the father being affiliated with BIFF. The whereabouts of the father and the boy were unknown at the end of 2014, although an investigation was launched by the Regional Human Rights Commission of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

The United Nations verified the killing of 13 children and the injury of 26 others in 22 separate incidents. In one incident, on 28 July, seven children were killed and six others, as young as 3 years of age, were wounded by ASG when their vehicle was ambushed. Ten incidents resulted from armed forces operations against BIFF and retaliatory attacks. One boy was killed and four children (two girls, two boys) were injured in armed clashes in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao resulting from conflicts involving MILF or Moro National Liberation Front commanders.

In five separate incidents, clashes between the armed forces and BIFF and between national police and NPA resulted in damage to schools, followed by suspension of classes. On 2 January, BIFF used a primary school in North Cotabato in operations against the armed forces and set the school on fire upon withdrawal. Concerns also persisted over threats made against teachers by ASG. In addition, the United Nations verified the military use of six schools and one hospital by the armed forces, mainly during operations against BIFF.

In June, the MILF leadership reappointed a panel to engage with the United Nations on a roadmap to expedite implementation of the action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children and took a number of important steps, notably that of appointing focal points in all of its base and front commands, displaying command orders prohibiting the recruitment and use of children, including sanctions against perpetrators, facilitating orientations on the roles and responsibilities of BIAF members vis-à-vis the action plan, and submitting progress reports to the United Nations every two months. MILF has also guaranteed unhindered access for action plan-related activities, including verification exercises.

In partnership with the Bangsamoro Development Agency, the United Nations has established 16 community-based child protection networks in conflict-affected communities in Mindanao to strengthen their capacity to prevent and respond to all forms of child rights violations.

The armed forces, through their Human Rights Office, and in line with my recommendations to better protect children affected by the armed conflict in the Philippines (S/2013/419), continued to finalize a strategic framework to protect children during military operations. Some of these have already been implemented, including the guidelines on the conduct of activities in schools and hospitals.

I commend the progress made by MILF and urge it to identify all children associated with BIAF to ensure their separation in line with the action plan. I encourage both the Government of the Philippines and MILF to continue their sustained engagement to ensure the success of the peace process, which the United Nations stands ready to support.

Parties in the Philippines

1.       Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)a
2.       Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)a
3.       Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)a,*
4.       New People’s Army (NPA)a

The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators. (a) Parties that recruit and use children.

*This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).