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Child Rebel Surrenders; AFP Alarmed over NPA’s Recruitment of Minors

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday expressed concern over the New People’s Army’s (NPA) recruitment of minors for combat following the surrender of an 11-year-old child-rebel from Mati City.

The young rebel, who was identified as Michael Gabriel, alias Dodong, has reportedly joined the communist group when he was just six years old.

In an interview, Gabriel disclosed that he has joined and witnessed several gun battles in Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental, and was even tasked to plant landmines along military routes.

Eastmincom spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said the young combatant voluntarily surrendered to the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Camansa in Asuncion, Davao del Norte last May 9.

Gabriel is the 55th NPA member who surrendered this year.

He is now under custody of the 60th IB and will be turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The military is also trying to locate the young rebel’s parents.

Besides Gabriel, three other minors, aged 14 to 17, have laid down their arms since March of this year.

According to Caber, around 22% of NPA members are minors aged six to 17. He added that around 74% are indigenous people or Lumads in Eastern Mindanao area.

Meanwhile, AFP spokesman and Civil Relations Services chief Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said the NPA’s recruitment of minors as combatants is a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), including the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA, are signatories of.

Part IV, Article 10 of the CARHRIHL provides that children should not be allowed to take part in hostilities.