From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 10, 2019): NPA thrives in N. Mindanao, Caraga by recruiting child warriors
The New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions continue to survive by allegedly recruiting teenagers as its young combatants, a ranking military official disclosed on Sunday.
Major General Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) which has military jurisdiction in the regions, said the presence of NPA child warriors has been “very alarming.”
“The presence of NPA child warriors is very alarming and everybody must take urgent action to stop the recruitment of our school children,” Gacal said.
Gacal said they discovered the NPA’s tactics following the surrender of two alleged former rebels, Rex Antonio alias Kent, 19, and alias Bradex, 23.
Gacal said that Kent is an alleged NPA combatant who got wounded and rescued by the government troops during an encounter between the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion (29IB) and the NPA at the hinterlands of Brgy. San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte last November 2.
He revealed that he was recruited by the group when he was still 17 years old.
Meanwhile, Gacal said that Bradex is a former rebel from the province of Bukidnon who surrendered last 2018.
“I am only 12 years old when the NPA used me as a courier and I became a full time NPA combatant at the age of 16,” Bradex added as he confirmed the rampant recruitment of minors by the NPA in Bukidnon.
The revelations of the two former rebels were confirmed by one Sandara Monsalao Mandahinog alias Karla, a 17-year-old squad medic of the NPA who surrendered last March 23 before the 23rd Infantry Battalion (23IB) in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.
“I was recruited and forced to join the NPA at the age of 14 which made my life miserable,” she said.
Gacal said the NPA’s recruitment of child warriors is a clear violation of Rule 136 of the International Humanitarian Law which prohibits recruitment of minors by any armed groups involved in hostilities.
Rule 136 states that “children must not be recruited into armed forces or armed groups.”
“I urge everyone, especially the parents, to take care of your children and together let us protect their future, our future generation,” Gacal said.
“We can prevent this recruitment of minors and totally end the local communist armed conflict through our convergence of efforts,” he added.