After a report from the United Nations (UN) identifying the Philippines as one of the 22 countries engaging minors in armed conflict, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman revealed on Wednesday that the agency, through its attached agency, Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), has intensified its monitoring system to guarantee that children are not being used in armed conflict.
Last year’s UN report identified 11 recorded incidents of recruitment and use of children by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), New People’s Army (NPA), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). There were about 23 boys and 3 girls involved, ranging from 12 to 17 years old, report said.
“We are deeply concerned with this UN report and we want to know if there is truth on this. This government does not allow the recruitment of child warriors,” said Secretary Soliman, also the Chairperson of CWC, an agency that chairs the Monitoring, Reporting and Response System (MRRS) Inter-agency Team.
The team, composed of the AFP, Philippine National Police (PNP), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Department of Health (DOH), has been instructed by Soliman to double its effort in monitoring such incidences.
The CWC has also drafted a proposed Executive Order to strengthen the MRRS. The EO adopts the Expanded Comprehensive Program Framework for Children in Situations of Armed Conflict. OPAPP is finalizing said EO prior to submitting to President Noynoy Aquino for approval.
The CWC is likewise conducting an orientation on the MRRS protocol to social workers, police officers, health workers, and teachers which shows the flow of reporting of child rights violations as well as the provision of immediate response. It is also pushing for the passage of the bill on Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict, which aims to give comprehensive protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration of children in armed conflict situations as well as penalizes parents who encourage their children to join armed groups. The bill is said to be re-filed when Congress resumes session this July.