The Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) called on communist rebels to end the recruitment of child soldiers as it joined the country in the observance of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) on Monday, September 9.
The Army division also reaffirmed the Army oath to protect human rights.
The activity was spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, 4ID commander, together with officers and men of the Cagayan de Oro City-based Army division.
A key part of the observance is the pledge of reaffirmation of commitment and support for the International Humanitarian Law led by Brig. General Oliver Vesliño, the assistant division commander.
In his message, the 4ID chief also warned the parents on the revelations of former rebels that the New People’s Army is recruiting minors as young as 12-years-old.
Gacal said they are “alarmed” with the latest data based on the result of the 4ID Custodial Debriefing Reports from 2016 to 2019, showing NPA’s extensive recruitment among minors in Northern Mindanao.
“The recruitment of minors is clear evidence of the continuous violations and deceptions of the NPA rebels,” he said.
Gacal read the message of President Rodrigo Duterte to the troops, echoing the Chief Executive’s directive to “continue to impress upon everyone the Philippine government’s committed adherence to the guiding principles of the International Humanitarian Law, while addressing the threats to national peace and security.”
The commitment, Gacal said, is summed up in this year’s theme, “IHL: Protecting the Defenseless in Times of Armed Conflict.”
Meanwhile, the 4ID’s 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) also took the oath of reaffirmation to IHL during the flag-raising ceremony at the Battalion Headquarters in Bukidnon on the same day.
Led by 1Lt. Kenneth Cabbigat, civil-military operations officer, the troops swore to strictly adhere and abide by the provisions of the IHL in the discharge of their duties and functions — especially on protecting the civilians and non-combatants.
Dialogue with IPs
Recently, 8IB provided assistance to several Indigenous Peoples (IP) members in Bukidnon who were accused as communist sympathizers.
Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, 8IB commander, called on groups and individuals — even government officials –engaged in “red-tagging” IP leaders to refrain from activities that he said may only sow division in the community.
“In winning the insurgency, we are counting friends not the enemies; I am reminding the friends of the government to stop tagging others to the NPA group,” Illana said.
“If ever some of them support the terrorists, we knew that they were forced to do so, they were victims of threat and we are visiting them through our Community Support Program efforts,” he said.
Illana said 8IB troopers met with the Higaonon elders in Impasug-ong town on Sept. 5 to answer all their concerns and clarify certain issues.
During the meeting, tribal chieftain Benny Cumatang reminded other Higaonons to “love our community. Let us live as one, and avoid accusing our colleagues as supporters of NPA-terrorists unless you have concrete evidence.”
“We have our 8th IB Army and the PNP (Philippine National Police) to work on the insurgency problem and peace and order situation in our municipality, let us help them by giving information and guiding our community,” Cumatang said. (PNA)