CHR denounces BIFF's use of child soldiers

By Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 31 2014 06:00 PM | Updated as of Feb 01 2014 02:00 AM

MANILA -- Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Etta Rosales said they have been receiving reports that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been using child soldiers in fighting government troops in Mindanao even before the issue hit news headlines.

Rosales said she has already asked for an investigation on the matter. But the agency has not yet received concrete proof on the veracity of the reports, she said.

If proven, she said child abuse as well as other criminal charges should be filed against those responsible even if they are lawless elements.

"They're claiming they are a legitimate force of the Muslim people. Pero bakit sila kumukuha ng child soldiers kung ganoon? We denounce such an act," she said.

Rosales said they continue to enjoin the government in its efforts to spur eco-growth and deliver basic services to the Muslim areas, thereby ultimately making armed struggle in these areas irrelevant.

According to Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, at least 3 child rebel soldiers were killed in the clashes in Maguindanao.

The child soldiers were between the ages of 15 to 16 years old, he said.

The clashes began on Monday when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) served arrest warrants against some members of the BIFF for atrocities committed in the south.

Fifty-two BIFF bandits and a soldier were killed in the fighting so far.