The 4th Infantry Division recorded a total of 63 child combatants operating in Northern Mindanao and Caraga who have either surrendered or killed since January 2019.
Maj. Regie Go, the spokesperson of 4th ID, said the ages of the New People’s Army rebels range from 12 to 17 years old.
Data from 2016-2019 revealed that the average age of underage recruits is 17 years old.
He said alias Christine, 17, an NPA medic who surrendered to 23 Infantry Battalion in October 2019 regretted joining the NPA.
“They didn’t allow me to visit my family and they threatened to kill them if we tell the authorities,” she told the soldiers.
Meanwhile, the 4th Infantry Division welcomes the decision of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to probe the NPA’s continued recruitment of minors.
Jacqueline de Guia, CHR spokesperson, said in an interview with CNN Philippines, “Under the International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, even non-state armed groups must respect the prohibition to recruit and use children in armed conflict and hostilities.”
“[The boy] was still in his development years and should be focusing on honing his potentials so he can pursue his goals and dreams but his life was snuffed out and can no longer be taken back,” she added
It can be recalled that a 16-year old NPA member named Litboy Binongcasan was killed in an encounter with the troops of the 23rd IB in the hinterlands of Barangay Manila de Bugabos, Butuan City. He was recruited when he was just 14 years old, his family said.
Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, the commander of the 4th ID, said, “We welcome the decision of the CHR to probe the NPA’s recruitment of minors.
“Their continued recruitment is a clear violation of children’s rights and the International Humanitarian Law,” Gacal said. “The youth is the hope of our nation and the communist terrorist group is destroying our future.”