Duterte’s war against children
The Duterte regime failed to protect children’s welfare and rights. In the past four years, child conditions have worsened from an already miserable one. Children are among the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the regime’s failure to open schools safely.
They are targets of the sham war against drugs in cities and the counterinsurgency war in the countryside. They have no protection against various types of violence inside their homes and abuses perpetrated by adults and the ruling system.
More than this, they are victims of the semicolonial and semifeudal system which trap millions in poverty. According to latest government statistics, a third of the 40 million children in the country, aged 15 below, lived in poverty in 2015. More than 2 million are forced to work fulltime to augment their parents’ incomes. Around one and a half million are neglected or abandoned.
From April to October this year, at least 34 children, aged 17 and below, were victimized by units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police in the course ofthe implementation of Duterte’s dirty war in the countryside. Three children were killed by soldiers and five more were nearly killed in cases of indiscriminate firing and soldiers who run amok. The regime is also responsible for the death of the 3-month old infant River Nasino, who was kept away from her political detainee mother.
According to documentation by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, 18 children were killed in Mindanao, Negros, Bicol and Samar during AFP combat operations. The victims include 15-year old Jhun Mark Acto who was shot by soldiers of the 39th IB, and then presented as a member of the New People’s Army in Davao del Sur. Two children were among those massacred by soldiers and landlord guards in Sagay, Negros Occidental.
Reports indicate that 176 out of 228 Lumad schools were harassed and shut down by the military and its paramilitaries in Mindanao as of October. This has forced more than 5,500 students to drop out this school year.
War against children
In cities, at least nine children were killed by police and the regime’s death squads in the course of “anti-drug” operations from January to June this year. From July 2016 to December 2019, 122 children were killed. Of all the documented cases, only the murder of Kian delos Santos, the 54th child victim, made it to courts only because the crime was caught on video. Many orphaned children have been forced to beg on the streets or work fulltime after their parents or carers were killed in this war.
Worse, the regime justifies the killing of children by calling their deaths collateral damage. Many are accused of drug peddling for syndicates, to justify their killing or detention in crammed jails and facilities. In 2018, the regime even attempted to railroad a bill which aims to lower the age of criminal liability from 15 years old to 12 or even 9 arguing that children “already know what they are doing” at that age.
Lockdown abuses and oppression
Another group recorded 15 cases of child killing by police forces under the lockdown. These cases include that of a 15-year old girl who was raped by a police personnel in Ilocos Sur. She was killed in a an ambush by two other police officers while on her way home with her cousin after reporting the said rape case at a police precint.
Child oppression intensified under the pandemic lockdown. Most affected are children in urban poor communities who were forced to stay in crammed and humid houses. One of the worst effects of Duterte’s lockdown is the rise in online child prostitution and sexual exploitation. From March 1 to May 24, cases of child sexual abuse rose by 364% compared to last year. Half of the victims were prostituted by their own parents or guardians to pedophiles in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia.