Philippines: Report Showcases Progress Despite Ongoing Violations Against Children

UN Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, May 2, 2017

New York – In his fourth report on the impact of armed conflict on children in the Philippines, covering the period from December 2012 to the end of 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General describes significant progress in the protection of boys and girls, despite ongoing violations against children, particularly in the Mindanao region.

Progress in protecting children affected by conflict

The report highlights significant progress achieved by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in implementing an Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, signed in 2009. The process culminated with the identification and formal disengagement of over 1,850 children. The last of a series of disengagement ceremonies took place on 19 March, 2017 and support services for disengaged children are currently ongoing.

In view of this commendable progress, Special Representative Virginia Gamba encouraged the MILF to “draw on the current momentum to fully implement the Action Plan and to reinforce the necessary safeguards to prevent future recruitment and association of children”. She further recognised the important role of the Government of the Philippines and Civil Society in facilitating the implementation of the Action Plan as it is through collaboration and solidarity that we can make a difference for children.

The Government of the Philippines strengthened the national framework to address violations against children, including by putting in place an Inter-Agency Committee on Children and Armed Conflict and the Monitoring, Reporting and Response System for grave violations against children. In his report, the Secretary-General calls on the Government to actively use these tools to ensure independent, prompt and thorough investigations into alleged violations committed against children and guarantee appropriate services for child victims.

Grave violations against children

The reporting period saw a general decrease in large-scale armed engagements. However sporadic low-intensity clashes and a number of critical incidents continued to affect children.

There was a reduction in the recruitment and use of children during the reporting period. Though the implementation of the MILF Action Plan is a sign of great progress, other non-State armed groups continued to recruit children, and a total of 17 incidents of recruitment and use, involving 71 children, were verified by the United Nations.

The killing and maiming of children in conflict remained a concern. Nearly half of the 116 cases documented by the UN (40 children killed and 76 injured) were attributed to the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Most incidents were the result of crossfire, unexploded ordnance or shelling, but others involved the targeting of children.

Another concern was the high number of attacks on schools and teachers, especially the increase since 2015 of such attacks in indigenous communities.

“I urge all parties to the conflict to end attacks or threats of attacks on schools, teachers and students. Using schools for military purposes is unacceptable. Children should be guaranteed safe access to education,” stated the Special Representative.

In the report, the Secretary-General calls on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international law and urges all listed armed groups to enter into dialogue with the United Nations to develop Action Plans to strengthen the protection of children in the country.