AFP alarmed by increasing number of young rebels
By Mai Gevera
Davao City (14 April) -- About a quarter of the rebels in Southern Mindanao is believed to be minors.
This alarming number has further worried the military group especially after the death of a nine-year-old Grecil Galacio, killed during an encounter of the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Purok 6, Barangay Kahayag, New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province last March 31.
Grecil, suspected by the military as a child combatant, is among the growing number of minor warriors recruited by the NPA.
Commanding general of the 1001st Infantry Battalion Carlos Holganza bared his concern on the massive recruitment of minor children to join the rebel forces against the AFP.
“I have been receiving so many requests from the barrio teachers to double and speed up our education program so as to prevent the kids from being swayed by rebel groups.”, he said.
Holganza said that the best way to counter and solve the war conflict is through massive education campaign to convince young and adults alike not to resort to rebellion as it would further aggravate the peace and order problem in the country.
“The AFP is continuously moving around our respective areas and we’ve been coordinating with the schools to strengthen our education campaign.”, Holganza said.
He stressed that just before these kids will be armed by guns, the government must be around to arm them first with education.
In his jurisdiction, Holganza admitted some restraints such as the absence of educators who are knowledgeable and at the same time convincing to assist the military in their education drive.
“What we worry is the way the military works. When a soldier’s life is in danger, he could fire back to anyone who attacked him first, even if it was a minor.”
In Grecil’s case, the military claimed that she was firing at them and the military had no recourse but to fire back.
The AFP is doing a follow-up investigation on the case to determine if the nine-year old female victim is indeed a child combatant.
Holganza bared that after releasing the final result of investigation and if proven that the child is not a rebel element, the AFP would openly apologize.
Meanwhile, the AFP has assisted the victim’s family such as monetary support through the Department of Social Welfare and Development. (PIA) [top]