BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Apolinario Gatmaitan Command issued a statement strongly denying allegations that the New People’s Army in Negros Island is exploiting minors as child warriors.
In statement, rebel spokesman Ka Juanito Magbanua claimed that an alias “RR”, who reportedly surrendered to the 94th Infantry Battalion, does not exist in any NPA unit in Negros Island, and dismissed as “false” on allegations that they recruited 10 minors.
Magbanua insisted that the NPA strictly adheres to the Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that protects and defends children’s rights and welfare.
Maj.Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 3rd Infantry Division commander, earlier slammed the CPP-NPA in Negros Island for continued exploiting minors as child warriors, after a 15-year-old, who admitted his participation in a recent clash with Army soldiers in Carabalan, Himamaylan City, voluntarily surrendered to the 94IB, accompanied by his mother.
Arevalo said that a former rebel positively identified RR as one of the 10 minors recruited by a certain alias Carding.
In its statement, Magbanua claimed that “children, most of them from the peasants and farm workers, urban poor and other oppressed classes and sectors, have no bright future under the present government.”
While they have a right and legitimate reason to take part in the revolution, he, however, said they cannot join the NPA unless they reach legal age.
“Membership in the NPA is based on political consciousness, hence, it is open to all revolutionary forces including the youth who is 18 years old and above,” Magbanua said.*