MANILA, 20 February 2019 – UN children’s agency UNICEF celebrates the passage of Republic Act 11188, the “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act,” signed on 10 January 2019.
The new law declares children as “zones of peace,” aimed at protecting children in situations of armed conflict from all forms of abuse and violence and prosecute persons or groups violating the measure.
A report published by the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in 2018 revealed that there was a significant increase in the number of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict in 2017, including 30 cases of recruitment and use of children by armed groups (a large number of which were linked to the Maute group), the detention of 12 children for their alleged association with armed groups, 33 verified cases of killing and maiming, 3 cases of rape in the context of the Marawi siege, 60 attacks on schools and hospitals (a substantial increase from 12 recorded cases in 2016), and 5 incidents of abduction.
In 2017, UNICEF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) completed the UN-MILF Action Plan to end recruitment and use of children, with 1,869 children disengaged from the MILF’s armed forces. The disengagement of these children facilitated their rights to health, education and protection. UNICEF continues to follow the situation of these children, as well as their siblings, making family visits and facilitating their access to essential services.
“The passage of this law is timely especially since we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely ratified treaty in the world. Children are innocent, they should not be in any way used as combatants and helpers, or become collateral damage,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander says.
The new law is part of the Philippines’ compliance with international obligations including the UN CRC, particularly the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and various UN Security Council resolutions related to children affected by armed conflict.
Among the prohibited acts in the new law include killing, torture, intentional maiming, rape, abduction, recruitment of children into government armed forces and other armed groups, hamletting, food blockade, arbitrary detention, and denial of humanitarian access. The age of protection from these enumerated grave child rights violations under the new law, including recruitment into armed groups and government forces, covers all minors or those below 18 years of age. Penalties go up to life imprisonment and a fine amounting to PHP5 million.
The new law is also celebrated for its progressive and gender-sensitive provisions which includes guarantees of access to education of girls even in situations of armed conflict as well as access to reproductive health services.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.