Filipino children and the youth have always been fair game in AFP’s counterinsurgency madness

On the anniversary of the death of Baby River Nasino, the child of political prisoner Reina Nasino, we remember all the children and youth who have fallen victims to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ manic counterinsurgency campaigns of the past two decades. In the name of defeating the Filipino people’s just armed revolutionary resistance, the reactionary regimes, from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the present Rodrigo Duterte, waged and continues to wage a bloody fascist war against the masses, children and youth included.

The AFP’s continuing militarization of hinterland villages in more occasions than one has resulted in several incidents of killings of children by its marauding troops. On the night of April 3, 2013, eight-year old Roque Antivo was walking home with his brother and uncle, both minors, when soldiers from the 71st IB fired at them indiscriminately. Roque was killed on the spot. “I shouted at them, ‘We are kids!’ his elder brother said later. Save for specific circumstances, almost the same fate befell 11-year old Daniel Ferrer in 2016 and 15-year old Juda Dagansan in 2014 when they were suddenly fired upon by AFP troops on combat operation, killing them instantly.

In the fascist tradition that forges the AFP, its undisciplined and trigger-happy soldiers figure in brawls during drunken or drug-filled nightouts, which unfortunately end in the killing of civilians, sometimes children. Eight-year old Sunshine Jabines came at the receiving end of the bullet from a drunk Pfc. Baltazar Ramos in a videoke bar of a mining village in Pantukan, Compostela Valley on the night of September 2, 2011.

More brazenly, as it is wont to do when killing unarmed civilians, the AFP sometimes misrepresents their victims as NPA child combatants in vain attempt to sweep their crimes under the rug. Nine-year old Grecil Buya suffered this egregious injustice when she was killed by the AFP troops in a military operation in Brgy. Kahayag, New Bataan in 2007. The 101st Brigade insisted that she had an M16 rifle when they mercilessly fired at her.

Lumad children are one of the more frequent victims as a result of sustained militarization, specifically the recruitment and arming of paramilitaries such as the Alamara and Bagani in the hinterlands of Southern Mindanao. Lumad students Alibando Tingkas, 15, and Obello Bay-ao, 19, were killed by the Alamara in Talaingod, Davao del Norte in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Under Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao in 2017 and the subsequent military siege of Talaingod since 2018, Lumad children were subjected to focused military operations and frequent aerial and artillery bombardment. Their Lumad schools were closed down, their communities peppered with military detachments, and their social and economic activities were subjected to constant surveillance.

Worst of all, children and the youth are being directly targeted by the most heinous attacks of the reactionary regimes under the auspices of their murderous counterinsurgency operation plans. Under Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bayanihan, eighteen-year old nursing student Marjorie Reynoso along with three others, Jonathan Venaro, 17, Lito Doydoy, 27, and Ramon Regase, 19, were abducted by military agents in Tagum City on September 19, 2003. Four days later, their bodies were found buried, heaped on top of each other in a shallow pit inside a banana plantation in Compostela, Maco town. The bodies bore torture marks, stab wounds, rope marks around their necks, and masking tapes covered their mouths. Marjorie’s skull was shattered by a bullet fired at close range. The murder came to be known as the Maco Four massacre.

None of the victims have since received any justice under the reactionary system, as either courts make the prosecution of AFP personnel or its agents too costly or dismiss point blank the complaints of families. The masses, therefore, look to the national democratic revolution to render revolutionary justice against the enemy. They rejoice in the tactical offensives carried out against AFP and PNP troops, which punish the fascist enemy for their crimes against Filipino children.

While the reactionary regimes have failed over the years to protect Filipino children from all forms of socio-economic and political attacks, the revolutionary movement strives to uphold the latter’s welfare, especially in the Red bases where revolutionary mass organizations and organs of political power hold sway. The landmark document NDFP Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection and Welfare of Children adopted in 2012 is a cornerstone in the establishment of the people’s democratic government in the countryside.

River Nasino’s death should endure to be a constant reminder of the inherent fascism of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system against our children. It must also remind us that only by waging the people’s protracted war can this injustice be squarely put to an end.

Filipino children and the youth have always been fair game in AFP's counterinsurgency madness