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Palace: Child warriors to be avoided unless they fire first

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:50:00 09/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — When possible, government forces should arrest rebel child soldiers and turn them over to social workers but should also not hesitate to take them on when they fire first, Malacañang said Thursday.

Ermita called the issue of child combatants a “serious concern” at the Review Summit of the Geneva Declaration of Armed Violence and Development which he attended in Switzerland last week.

The military has accused the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of fielding minors in the battlefield. Government forces are running after MILF members who attacked civilian communities in Central Mindanao last August.

“The military has been given instructions to be sure [that] if these people [minors] are in conflict, [they] must be avoided, taken into custody, and turned over to the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development]. That is a serious concern in Geneva,” Ermita told a news conference at the Palace.

Asked what troops would do if the minor is armed, Ermita said: “It’s very hard to say. Imagine if, at a distance, he is just 15-years-old, when the guy is shooting back at you.”

And, he added, “It really is [a case of] to whom it may concern if we are using high-angle fire, mortar fire.”

Asked if troops would make distinctions between child and adult combatants when rebels fire the first shot, Ermita said: “No more. Siyempre kung ikaw naman ang andun [What if you were in that situation].”

“Definitely, if they are unarmed, they should be given protection,” he said.

Ermita said Malacañang is considering bringing the use of child warriors by the MILF and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) before international courts.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-09-18T13:10:54+00:00UTC09bUTCThu, 18 Sep 2008 13:10:54 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm09

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