Children are victims of Duterte’s war on drugs and war on the revolutionary movement

10 December 2017

Coni Ledesma, NDFP Special Office for the Protection of Children

The Special Office for the Protection of Children of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, condemns in the strongest terms the increasing killing and human rights violations on children by the Duterte regime.

When President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, last 23 November 2017, he used as one of the reasons the death of a four month old baby. The baby was in a vehicle which was behind the military vehicle ambushed by the New People’s Army. The infant was reportedly hit by a bullet and killled, according to unverified claims of the GRP military, with a bloodless photo of the supposed mother and bundled child.

Feigning both anger and sadness, Duterte then announced that he would no longer talk to the NDFP because the NPA was killing his soldiers and his policemen while peace talks were going on. To add drama to his feigned emotions, he mentioned the NPA ambush where the baby was killed by accident.

On the contrary, children have never more been endangered as they are under the Duterte regime. In the Duterte regime’s implementation of its all-out war against the Filipino people, children have become victims of killings, bombings, forced evacuation, hunger and disease. Their right to education has been violated with the targeting and closing down of their schools as in the case of the Lumads in Mindanao.

Lumad children and victims of President Duterte’s war on drugs carry the same call. (Photo by A.Umil/Bulatlat)

Duterte’s all-out war policy and his declaration of martial law in Mindanao have given license to the military and paramilitary to kill, arrest and torture children. This aggravates a situation in which children by the millions are exploited, deprived of education beyond Grade 4, malnourished and sickly in the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system.

Obello Bay-ao, a Grade 7 Lumad was killed on September 5, 2017, by the Alamara, a paramilitary group in Mindanao.

Jean Baguio Bustamante, a 17 year old member of the Compostela Farmers Association Youth, was forcibly taken and detained by the military in the detachment of the 66th Infantry Battalion in Mambuscao, Compostela.

Josua, a 16 year old was interrogated by elements of the 20th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in October 2017.

Last November 22, the slit throats of Harold Bulan (Kipoy) 17, Jerico Garcia (Negro) 16, and his friend, Jomari Sinerez 17 were found. Negro and Kipoy were lying in a massive pool of their own blood.

There are many more examples of youth being killed by agents of the Duterte government.

To make way for big mining, logging and tourism industry, Duterte has ordered the bombings of homes and schools of Lumad communities that resulted in the uprooting of thousands of peasant and indigenous families. They are forced to live in evacuation centers where they lack the basic necessities such as food and water. The first to succumb to hunger and disease are children.

A food blockade has been taking place in Lianga since November 28, affecting 345 Lumad families, 12 communities, 1688 individuals, about 406 students and 59 teachers.

Schools attended by indigenous children are under attack. The Duterte regime peddles lies that these schools are run by the revolutionary movement and so must be closed, disenfranchised or occupied by the government’s military forces. Students and teachers are constantly threatened and harassed.

The Duterte regime’s ruthless implementation of its so-called war on drugs have victimized thousands of children – some estimating it to be 12,000.

Lumad evacuees due to martial law, Surigao del Sur

And what does Duterte think of it? As if mimicking American generals who perfunctorily refer to hundreds of children being killed in their bombing raids in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Duterte in an Al Jazeera interview referred to the children killed in his drug war as “collateral damage.” In truth children are criminalized as he legitimizes state-led violence against them.

The Special Office for the Protection of Children of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines demands the lifting of the food blockade, the departure of the military from the homes and schools of the Lumad, stopping of the killing of children and respecting the rights of children. We also call on human rights groups and advocates for the rights of children, to protest the violations of the rights of children, and help defend their rights.

Coni K. Ledesma
Head, NDFP Special Office for the Protection of Children