Armed groups, whether government forces or rebels, found using children in armed conflicts will be punished.
This is the essence of a bill providing special protection for children in situation of armed conflict (CSAC) set to be filed by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. at the opening of the 16th Congress next month.
The measure proposes to prohibit and penalize the commission of grave child rights violation in armed conflict situation, including killing of children, subjecting them to torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, rape or abduction of children, and other acts constituting gender-based violence against children.
Other prohibited acts under the measure include the use of children as hostages or human shield, denial of humanitarian access and assistance to children, recruitment and involvement of children in armed conflict, and attack of schools, hospitals, places of worship, evacuation centers and settlement and other public places where children can usually be found.
The bill seeks to impose a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million but not more than P5 million for anyone found in violation of its provisions.
Recent reports said the United Nations (UN) tagged the New People’s Army, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf among 29 groups here in the Philippines that are “persistently perpetrators” of the use of children in armed conflicts.
The report also said the UN found out that even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had utilized children in two military operations.
“Government forces, as well as other non state armed groups shall be liable for violation of any provision of this proposed law,” Marcos said.
He noted that children who are exposed to armed conflict experience severe physical and psychological trauma and the innocence of the youth is violently robbed and replaced by the terrors of violence, hatred, and pain.
The Council for the Welfare of Children said that in 2012 the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of National Defense, different non-government organizations, and the AFP reported an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 children were “displaced by armed conflict every year for the past 4 years.”
“Children deserve utmost protection from all forms of danger. All efforts must, therefore, be exerted to ensure that they are sheltered and protected at all times. Under this proposal, there is a comprehensive treatment of children in armed conflict, including their rescue and demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration,” Marcos said.