MANILA - The United Nation children's agency, UNICEF, celebrated the passage into law of a bill protecting children in situations of armed conflict.
Republic Act 11188, or the "Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act," was signed into law on January 10, 2019.
Under the new law, children are declared as "zones of peace," and should be protected from all forms of abuse and violence.
Those who will violate the said measure will be prosecuted.
The law also aims to “prevent the recruitment, re-recruitment, use, displacement of, or grave child rights violations against children involved in armed conflict.”
Among the prohibited acts in the new law are killing, torture, intentional maiming, rape, abduction, recruitment of children into government armed forces and other armed forces, food blockade, hamletting, arbitrary detention and denial of humanitarian access.
The age of protection covers all minors or those below 18 years of age.
“The passage of this law is timely especially since we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely ratified treaty in the world. Children are innocent, they should not be in any way used as combatants and helpers, or become collateral damage,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.
A report published by the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in 2018 revealed an increase in the number of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict in 2017.
At least 30 cases of recruitment by armed groups were recorded, as well as the detention of 12 children for their alleged association with armed groups, 33 verified cases of killing and maiming, 3 cases of rape in the context of the Marawi siege, 60 attacks on schools and hospitals and 5 incidents of abduction.
In 2017, UNICEF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) completed the UN-MILF Action Plan to end recruitment and use of children, with the MILF disengaging 1,869 children from its armed forces.
UNICEF continues to monitor the situation of the disengaged children to ensure their access to essential services.
The new law is part of the Philippines’ compliance with international obligations including the UN CRC, particularly the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and various UN Security Council resolutions related to children affected by armed conflict.