Progress in the Philippines, but Recent Clashes in Mindanao Highlight Challenges for the Peace Process
New York – Today, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, presented the third report of the Secretary-General on the situation of children and armed conflict in the Philippines.
This report, presented to the Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict, highlights progress to protect children affected by conflict in the Philippines, but also notes that between December 2009 and November 2012, children have continued to experience grave child rights violations in the conflicts in Mindanao and other remote areas.
“The Government of the Philippines is taking considerable steps, together with the UN, to address child protection concerns,” said Leila Zerrougui during her presentation.
The Government is about to adopt legislation specifically designed to protect children affected by armed conflict. In addition, the country’s armed forces are finalizing military guidelines to prevent military use of schools as well as a comprehensive strategy to better protect children in the conduct of military operations.
The Special Representative also noted concerns that remain to be addressed. For example, children arrested during military operations are not always treated primarily as victims and protected from public exposure. Also, stronger oversight of the Government auxiliary forces is required to avoid inadvertent association of children.
Action Plan with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
In August 2009, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed an action plan with the UN to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in Mindanao.
“The peace process between the Government of the Philippines and MILF is a reason for hope and I encourage MILF to use this momentum to fully implement the action plan,” said Leila Zerrougui.
Earlier this year, a technical mission led jointly by the Office of the Special Representative and UNICEF had discussions with MILF to speed up the implementation of the action plan.
Recent Clashes in Mindanao Endanger Children
Unfortunately, last month, fighting broke out in densely populated coastal villages of Zamboanga City between a splinter faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Children were caught in the cross-fire and used as human shields by MNLF. Schools were burned and a hospital was damaged. At the height of the emergency, over 100,000 people were displaced, and it was estimated that 40% of them were children.
In another incident, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) clashed with the Armed Forces in North Cotabato. Local residents, teachers and children were held hostage by BIFF in a school.
“I have received worrisome information that girls and boys are trained and used by BIFF,” said Leila Zerrougui. “The UN must reach out to the leadership of this separate faction to ensure children are kept away from military activity.”
These incidents are a reminder of the challenges the Government of the Philippines continues to face in its efforts to protect children. The Special Representative calls on all parties to end and prevent grave violations against children.
For additional information, contact:
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Office: +1 212 963 8285
Mobile: +1 917 288 5791