I am one of those who continue to despise the return to politics by the Marcoses, making them again influential and powerful, as if the family headed by the late ousted dictator hasn’t done this country and its people grievous wrong.
But, because we are forgiving people with short memory, they are back in their glory days in politics even when their ill-gotten wealth has not been fully recovered and some remaining victims of the Martial Law years are gradually dying without receiving compensation.
That is, however, neither here nor there.
For once I am applauding Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for planning to file a bill that will punish armed groups, whether government forces or rebel groups, who will use children in armed conflicts.
“Children deserve utmost protection from all forms of danger. All efforts must, therefore, be exerted to ensure that they are sheltered and protected at all times. Under this proposal, there is a comprehensive treatment of children in armed conflict, including their rescue and demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration,” Marcos said.
Other prohibited acts under his planned bill include the use of children as hostages or human shield, denial of humanitarian access and assistance to children, recruitment and involvement of children in armed conflict, and attack of schools, hospitals, place of worship, evacuation centers and settlement and other public places where children can usually be found.
Here, as in conflicts abroad, like in Syria, the reality of child abuse in war-torn countries has been recently reported by Leila Zerrougui, a U.N. special representative on children in conflict, saying that her office had received “verified reports that Syrian children are killed or injured in indiscriminate bombings, shot by snipers, used as human shields or victims of terror tactics.”
This simply confirms the U.N. report cited by Marcos that “tagged” the New People’s Army (NPA), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as among 29 groups in the country that are “persistently perpetrators” of the use of children in armed conflicts.
Marcos said that children who are exposed to armed conflict “experience severe physical and psychological trauma and the innocence of the youth is violently robbed and replaced by the terrors of violence, hatred, and pain.”
The bill seeks to impose a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Php2 million but not more than Php5 million for anyone found in violation of its provisions.
Hope this will materialize in the 16th Congress as child protection in times of conflict has been long overdue.