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17-year-old boy rescued from NPA; Army slams recruitment

The military slammed the communist rebels for continuing to deploy child combatants to fight its war.

Troops from the 28th Infantry (Kamagong) Battalion, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Alexander Banatao, rescued a 17-year-old following a skirmish in Sitio Tawas, Barangay Maragatas, Lupon on May 9. The guerrilla was identified only as alias Jack.

Jack was a resident of Barangay Cabay-angan, Dujali, Davao del Norte who luckily survived the encounter unscathed. He told soldiers that he was forced to join the NPA out of fear. He also claimed that guerrillas would ask his parents to hide firearms and ammunition inside their house for safekeeping.

He also claimed that there were three other minors, with ages ranging from 15 to 16, in his group.

Banatao immediately organized a team, composed of intelligence operatives from the 28th IB and Davao Oriental Provincial Mobile Force Company, to recover the arms cache from the house of his parents in Dujali.

On May 15, troops were able to recover one M4 rifle, two bandoliers, five magazines with live ammunition.

Banatao condemned the actions of the NPA to expose minors to danger by recruiting them as part of the armed group. He said that it is a gross violation of the Geneva Convention and other domestic laws in the country.

Republic Act 7610 of the 1987 Constitution provides “stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse, exploitation and discrimination.”

“It also stipulates that ‘children shall not be an object of attack and shall be entitled to special respect,’” he said. “They shall be protected from any form of threat, assault, torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Meanwhile, the soldiers from the same battalion pooled their money to buy clothes for the rescued minor. He was then brought to the Lupon Municipal Police Station for processing.

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