AFP, DepEd engage in doubletalk in guidelines on military activities in schools to justify AFP attacks vs children - Karapatan

The BS Aquino administration once again demonstrates its propensity for double talk with the recent guidelines released by the Department of Education and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on military activities in schools to justify the continuing military attacks and human rights violations against children issued on December 13 and July 15, 2013 – just as how it tries to hoodwink the Filipino people into believing its lies on the president’s popularity ratings through its unbelievable surveys. 

From July 2010 to December 2013, Karapatan has documented 18 minors who were victims of extrajudicial killing and 132,633 victims of right violations with the use of schools, medical, religious and other public places for military purposes. Local and international human rights groups and children’s advocacy organizations have decried such rising number of rights violations against children under the Aquino government. We have repeatedly demanded for the immediate pull out of all military personnel from communities and schools, and that the killings, torture and other rights violations should be stopped. 

Yet, instead of heeding this legitimate call, the Aquino administration came out with AFP guidelines/letter directive #25 and DepEd memorandum 221 series of 2013 which legitimize such attacks against children by continuing to allow the use of schools/educational institutions for military purposes, sugarcoating such operations as “civil-military operations.” 

From the horses’ mouths themselves, the AFP has extolled Oplan Bayanihan, BS Aquino’s counter-insurgency program, for utilizing combat and “non-combat” strategies, which included CMOs, as means to defeat rebel groups. Thus, CMOs in the guise of humanitarian activities, are within the framework and operations of the AFPs ongoing war and cannot be devoid of any military objective. 

The following cases documented by Karapatan would reveal this pattern of rights abuses, even under the guise of “civil-military operations,” among several other cases:

 

  • Grade VI and high school students participated in the counter-isurgency lectures conducted by the AFP during class hours by virtue of Memorandum no. 68 allowing “The Charlie Company of the 5th Civil Military Operations Battalion, 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in coordination with the Department of Education (DepEd), to conduct a counter-insurgency campaign, a 1-hour symposium, in all public elementary and high schools in this Division starting July 1, 2012, Saturday. This is to enhance pupils’/students’ consciousness about the lies, deception and clandestine operation of the Communist Terrorist Movement.”
  • On June 28, 2013, soldiers belonging to the 81st Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) led by Cpl. Domingo arrived at Brgy. Nagtenga, Ilocos Sur and met with brgy. officials. They explained that their presence was part of Aquino’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan. The soldiers encamped at the barangay hall of Nagtenga, where the health center and day care center are located. Despite the objection of the residents, the military still encamped in the barangay hall.
  • A similar incident happened in Brgy. Sampaguita, Municipality of Kibawe, Province of Bukidnon when 18 military men from the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) arrived in Brgy. Sampaguita on March 21, 2012. They immediately went to Sampaguita Elementary School and used it as a military camp without permission from the head of the community.

Beyond the deception of such counter-insurgency program lies the real and repressive character of the military and the interests of those in power to quell the rising discontent of the Filipino people against the anti-people policies of the Aquino government. Such operations have resulted to the continuing killings, torture and other rights violations, especially trained against those perceived to be the government’s enemies, and in the process have likewise resulted to direct attacks against children’s rights. 

Even after the guidelines were released by the AFP in July 2013, Karapatan continued to receive reports of attacks against schools and children’s rights. One such incident occured in Lopez, Quezon, when the 85th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines arrived at Polytechnic University of the Philippines and conducted a “Symposium for Peace” on August 2013. Mark Anda, a member of the student council was not able to attend the said symposium due to his exams. He later learned that the military tagged him as a recruiter of the NPA in the presence of his fellow students. This was done by the AFP despite the issuance of the guidelines and the Prudente-Ramos Memorandum of agreement prohibiting the presence of the police and the military inside school campuses.  

Thus, Karapatan strongly opposes the AFP and DepEd guidelinesfor violating domestic and international laws relating to the rights of the child, specifically Republic Act No. 7610 also known as the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). 

The memorandum is being clearly used by the AFP to enter schools for military purposes, specifically to conduct lectures on the government’s counter-insurgency program in violation of Section 22 of Republic Act 7610 that declares Children as Zones of Peace and prohibits the use of public structures such as schools, hospitals and rural health units for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments and supply depots. No amount of shameless attribution to international human rights laws can belie the fact that the government continues to violate the rights of children and it has done any better, despite being a Party to international instruments or its enactment of several laws or guidelines. 

We unequivocally reiterate our demand for the immediate pull-out of all military units in schools and communities, for the Aquino administration to stop Oplan Bayanihan and to respect the rights of the children and the Filipino people.