By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Air Force led by a Lt. Vitalico Sacoso and based in Sitio Malamig, Brgy. Sto. Nino, San Francisco, in Quezon Province is being charged of illegally arresting three youth in Brgy. Pangsanghan, also in Quezon.
The three youth, Elmer Desoyo, 17years old, Rey Rodrigo, 17, and the last, Reynaldo De los Reyes, are all young farmers and legitimate residents of the barangay with no criminal record.
The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) also condemned the elements of the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the illegal arrest and detention of the three in Quezon.
The three were said to have been looking for work in coconut farms in Sitio Tagbakan Brgy. Pansoy San Andres Quezon when armed soldiers in civilian clothes but carrying high powered rifles pointed guns at them and arrested them for no reason. Eventually, the men introduced themselves as soldiers of the 74th IB.
Lt. Col. Dennis Perez, commanding officer of the 74th IB announced to the media that the three minors were members of NPA extorting money from residents.
After learning what happened to their sons, the family together with Karapatan- Southern Tagalog immediately went to the Army headquarters based in Sitio Malamig, Sto Nino, Quezon but they were not allowed to see the children.
“This is another form of attack of military operations on civilians in rural areas. Children remained an easy target of military atrocities; they were harassed, arrested and detained, presented to the media as rescued child warriors and charged with different fabricated cases. The effects of such attacks to the well being of these children and their families are undeniably severe”, Jacquiline Ruiz, executive director of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) said.
She said this is another case that unmasks the Aquino administration’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) aka Oplan Bayanihan. “The AFP actually contradicts the IPSP’s supposed peace and development program in rural communities,” she said.
According to Karapatan-Southern Tagalog secretary-general Glendhyl Malabanan, the Aquino administration continues to commit human rights violations against Filipinos, including children and that Oplan Bayanihan remains its main tool to attack and violate the human rights of Filipinos all over the country.
Malabanan cited the recent report of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center which states that in the first three months of 2012 alone, there have been five cases of extrajudicial killings involving child victims; 15 frustrated killings, two cases of rape and sexual abuse against children. There were also 10 monitored attacks against schools, and eight minors were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“It’s most alarming how these violations against the human rights of children and youth. Last February 16, four youth in Majayjay, Laguna were brutally killed by soldiers of the 202nd Brigade ng Philippine Army. The military admitted that they mistook the four youth as NPA members. The youth were only foraging for food and hunting game,” she said.
According to Malabanan, the soldiers even attempted to bribe the parents of the victims so that they won’t file charges against the military.
“The complete lack of humanity and the utter cruelty of the military is again proven in all these cases. They disguise themselves as human rights protector when in truth they are actually human rights violators!”, she said.
According to Karapatan-ST, since they have been arrested and abducted, the three minors have yet to be surfaced and shown to their parents. The group already attempted twice to see the victims. Karapatan staff went to the Army headquarters, but they were not allowed to see the three.
As of last report, the three have been taken to the Quezon Provincial Jail and charged with illegal possession of firearms.
Gabriela-ST, in the meantime, slammed the AFP for lying when it said that the three were immediately taken to the Department of Social Welfare and Development after they were arrested.
“Based on the Juvenile Justice Act, children 15 to 17 years old when accused of a crime should not be detained with ordinary criminals in the jails. They should be taken to a place where they can be allowed to rehabilitate while their cases are being investigated,” said Gabriela-ST secretary general Rjei Manalo.
Manalo also said that last month, another minor was reported to have been gang-raped by soldiers of the 16th IB inside their camp. The minor was reported to have become severely mentally unstable after her horrific ordeal.
“We vigorously condemn these atrocities of the AFP against children and demand that formal investigations be made into these cases,” she said.
Gabriela-ST called on the Commission on Human Rights and the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC)of the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to look into the arrest of the three youth and the other cases of HRVs against youth in Southern Tagalog.
The CRC, in the meantime, challenged President Aquino, as the commander-in-chief of the AFP, to stand for children’s rights by immediately releasing the three minors and punish those who are responsible for this child rights violation. “Most importantly, we are demanding the President scrap of Oplan Bayanihan and promote genuine measures that respect human rights”, Ruiz ended.