MANILA – The Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) will mark a milestone in its campaign to promote child protection through a ceremonial signing of the Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (CSAC) handling protocol on Tuesday.
“No child shall be left behind,” the CWC, an attached office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), said on Monday, as it invited the public to witness their virtual program.
The office is promoting its campaign with the slogan, #ChildrenNotSoldiers.
Republic Act No. 11188 or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Law seeks to protect children and ensure that their rights, even in armed conflict situations, are upheld and respected.
With this, the Department of Education developed a national policy framework declaring schools and learners as zones of peace.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) celebrated the passage of the measure after President Rodrigo Duterte signed it in January 2019.
The law calls children as “zones of peace” and seeks to protect them in situations of armed conflict from all forms of abuse and violence.
It also sought to prosecute persons or groups violating the measure.
“It is our hope that the 10 years of pushing for this law and our success in developing its implementing rules and regulations last year touch and protect more lives, especially those of the children in situations of armed conflict,” CWC said on their Facebook account on Monday.
In 2018, a report published by the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict revealed that there was a significant increase in the number of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict in 2017.
The data includes 30 cases of recruitment and use of children by armed groups — a large number of which were linked to the terrorist Maute group that started a war in Marawi City, the detention of 12 children for their alleged association with armed groups, 33 verified cases of killing and maiming, three cases of rape in the context of the Marawi siege, 60 attacks on schools and hospitals — a substantial increase from 12 recorded cases in 2016, and five incidents of abduction.
In 2017, UNICEF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) completed the UN-MILF Action Plan to end recruitment and use of children, with 1,869 children disengaging from the MILF’s armed forces.
The disengagement of children facilitated their rights to health, education, and protection.
UNICEF continues to follow the situation of these children, as well as their siblings, making family visits and facilitating their access to essential services.
“The passage of this law is timely especially since we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely ratified treaty in the world. Children are innocent, they should not be in any way used as combatants and helpers, or become collateral damage,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said in a statement.
Among the prohibited acts in the new law include killing, torture, intentional maiming, rape, abduction, recruitment of children into armed groups, hamletting, food blockade, arbitrary detention, and denial of humanitarian access.
The age of protection from these enumerated grave child rights violations under the new law, including recruitment into armed groups and government forces, covers all minors or those below 18 years of age. Penalties go up to life imprisonment and a fine amounting to PHP5 million.
The new law is also celebrated for its progressive and gender-sensitive provisions which include guarantees of access to education of girls even in situations of armed conflict as well as access to reproductive health services. (PNA)