PH rebels use child soldiers - report

By Sheila Riikonen, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau correspondent

Posted at Mar 17 2012 08:55 AM | Updated as of Mar 17 2012 04:55 PM

FINLAND - Children throughout the world, including those in the Philippines, are recruited to kill, according to Richard Clarke, the newly appointed Secretary General of Child Soldiers International.

“Children are used as cannon fodders, spies, and sex slaves in Libya, Somalia and Afghanistan,” he said, in a panel in Helsinki, Finland last March 9.

According to Clarke, the use of child soldiers is intrinsically linked to the illicit trade in small arms and the distribution in the African countries. He noted another factor is raised when countries rich in natural resources also engage in armed conflict using child soldiers.

Clarke spoke to NGOs, human rights workers, government representative and the media.

“Child soldiers in Asia are also prevalent in Myanmar, Burma, and the Philippines," he said.

Although his organization is currently sending small teams in Southeast Asia, so far, they have not been investigating the case of child soldiers in the Philippines.

Child soldiers in PH

The Philippines has a long history of conflicts, and both paramilitaries and opposition groups are accused of recruiting young boys as soldiers, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers reported.

“Up to one-fifth of the communist insurgents’ (New People’s Army) 7,500-strong force were under 18 years old, while children made up 13 percent of the 10,000 members of the Muslim group Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” the Child Soldiers Global Report in 2008 wrote.

Aside from the Philippines, the Human Rights Watch said that child soldiers are also fighting in at least 14 other countries and territories including Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), India, Iraq, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, and Uganda.

Although the states themselves have signed the treaty banning child soldiers, “children are still used in their armed forces or support armed groups that recruit children in their territories or neighboring states".

In the Philippines, the NPA, the MILF, and the Abu Sayyaf Group are accused of training children and teenagers to fight for their causes. “Authorities said the children were recruited by rebels by offering them guns and money and tasked to operate land mines," earlier reported by So far, only a few have ever been prosecuted for their crimes.

Although it has been widely reported that Filipino rebels agreed to stop using child soldiers, the trend is not diminished. The bill banning the use of children in armed conflicts in Philippines was passed but failed in its potential, said the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Security Team Leader of Finland Foreign Ministry Counselor Satu Suikkari Kleven and Save the Children's international programs director Anne Haaranen joined Clarke in the panel in tackling the issue of human rights policy on the protection of children in armed conflict. The resolutions included steps to prevent the recruitment of children as soldiers and to ensure the child soldiers, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration back into society.

Save the Children Finland is a national Finnish organization founded in 1922, to promote children’s rights and improve their lives in Finland and all over the world.

The Finnish government cooperated directly with civil society organizations, including those in the Philippines - operating first in the national, regional, and community levels. Finland is lobbying for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for 2013-14, which will be decided on in autumn 2012.