ILOILO City – The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) based in Jamindan, Capiz is ready to deploy soldiers in schools to stop the alleged New People’s Army (NPA) recruitment of students via front organizations. A “preventive measure” was how Army Captain Cenon Pancito III, 3ID spokesperson, described the planned deployment.
In fact, it already posted soldiers at West Visayas State University – Calinog, Iloilo Campus, said Pancito. The school itself made the request, he stressed.
But tertiary schools in northern Iloilo were the priority, according to Pancito during a press conference yesterday.
He did not publicly name the schools but said the 3ID learned about the NPA “visits” from documents seized from rebels in past encounters.
The 3ID will be coordinating with the local police, school authorities, Department of Education, and Commission on Higher Education, said Pancito.
“We will be there to assist school authorities neutralize communist rebel intrusions,” said Pancito. “There is no militarization of schools. This is a preventive measure. Students are vulnerable. We do not want rebels to conduct recruitment activities in schools.”
He also clarified that not all schools would be posted with soldiers
“If we see no threat, we will not deploy personnel,” he stressed.
Pancito urged to parents to monitor the activities of their children and dissuade them from joining militant groups that, he said, were “legal fronts” of the NPA.
He tagged the League of Filipino Students and Anakbayan as organizations of the rebels.
“We are not against rallies and protests pero against tayo sa pakikibaka na hindi alam ng mga estudyante kung ano ang ipinaglalaban nila,” said Pancito.
He confirmed that West Visayas State University – Calinog, Iloilo Campus requested for some soldiers and the 3ID agreed to deploy troops there.
“They even requested us to have a detachment inside the campus but we told them the soldiers would only be stationed outside the school,” Pancito said.
He added: “Anytime, we can respond to the needs of WVSU.”
Pancito also said the school requested for Army troops not only to address the problem of students holding rallies but to also respond to the reports that the school was “slowly encroached by unauthorized personnel.”
VIOLATION OF INT’L, DOMESTIC LAWS
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Western Visayas said the recruitment of individuals below 18 years old for armed struggle violates international and domestic laws.
Although the CHR Region 6 has not received any formal report on the recruitment of minors in armed conflict, Christopher Montaño, information officer of CHR-6, said they had monitored the recruitment activities of the NPA through mass media.
“If we based it on the Geneva Convention and our domestic laws, recruiting minors in the armed conflict is a violation because children should never be involved in armed conflict situations,” Montaño said.
The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) states that children 15 years and up can join the armed movement but Republic Act (RA) 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) provides “stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse, exploitation, and discrimination” disallows persons below 18 to join the armed movement.
Montaño stressed that children, as “zones of peace”, should be protected and should not be at any cost exposed to the culture of violence.
RA 7610 stipulates that “children shall not be an object of attack and shall be entitled to special respect. They shall be protected from any form of threat, assault, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
“That is why the recruitment of youth to be used as spies, couriers, and guides of both the Armed Forces of the Philippine and the CPP-NPA is prohibited by law,” he said. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency/PN)