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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
The Philippines is grateful for this opportunity to address the Security Council following the circulation of the annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. With the high priority that she gives to the promotion and protection of the rights of Filipino children, including in the context of armed conflict, the Philippines has always considered this issue with special importance and continues to view with utmost seriousness any negative report in this regard.
Visit of the SRSG in December 2008 and
The Philippines’ commitment to the protection of children affected by armed conflict was particularly demonstrated when her Government facilitated the visit to the Philippines on 7-13 December 2008, of Madame Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. In that visit, she held dialogues with key officials from the Office of the President, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Commission on Human Rights, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process - focal office for the Government’s peace processes with the major rebel groups. She also met with local government officials, civil society actors and some women and children affected by the armed conflict. In the course of the meetings, Madame Coomaraswamy saw the embodiment of our national Comprehensive Program on Children Involved in Armed Conflict. I would like to highlight that, in order to drive the implementation of the program, the Government keeps on mobilizing an Inter-Agency Committee on Children Involved in Armed Conflict to work closely with the Commission on the Welfare of Children to oversee actions to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of our national program and to self-monitor the Philippines’ compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Since her visit, our enhanced action has:
groups in the context of national peace
We likewise wish to point out that, as an extraordinary measure, Madame Coomaraswamy had an opportunity to meet with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to discuss the concerns about the presence of children within the ranks of this rebel group. Allow me to reiterate the position of the Philippines that engaging non-state armed groups, including for the purpose of securing the protection of children, should be approached in a most careful manner. Since the situation of children occurs against a complex background, any strategy to protect children in this case should be in harmony with the larger peace processes that the Government has with non-state groups in the country and in full coordination with the Philippine Government. In fact, we are already including specific provisions on children’s protection in all peace negotiations, peace agreements, and ceasefires. The protection of children has been mainstreamed in the peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) through the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The Tripoli Agreement in 2001 between the Philippine Government and the MILF, which calls for adherence to human rights and principles of international law, provides a basis for expanding the protection regime for children affected by conflict.
Upholding the commitment to protect
We wish to recall what we stated in our intervention at the open debate last 17 July 2008 in the Security Council on this agenda item under consideration that the Philippine Constitution enshrines the promotion and protection of the rights of children makes the child the core of the Filipino family; recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation building; and directs the State to promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being, defend their right to assistance, and provide them special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development. The Philippines also maintains a vast arsenal of statutes on the promotion and protection of the rights of children, such as the Family Code, the Child and Youth Welfare Code and, more importantly, Republic Act No. 7610, An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination. This Act prohibits the use of children in armed combat; protects them from armed conflicts; establishes children as Zones of Peace; and provides for evacuation of children during armed conflict. The Philippines is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children and Armed Conflict.
The Security Council may recall that its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict had commended the Philippines for the high standard of its legal framework and policies for the welfare and protection of children.
I am pleased to report that the Philippine Government has started the process of amending the Act I just mentioned for the purpose of, inter alia, effectively operationalizing the concept of children as zones of peace and ensuring provisions for the non-criminal treatment and non-judicial rehabilitation of the affected children as recommended by Madame Coomaraswamy.
The Working Group also lauded the Philippines for its cooperation with the UN regarding the appropriate establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism in the Philippines. Indeed, the collaborative work between my government and the UN has started off positively, and I would like to assure you of my Government’s commitment to continue this cooperation.
I would like to briefly address some specific matters appearing in the Secretary General’s report on the section affecting the Philippines.
I cannot overemphasize the commitment of the Government to ensure that children’s rights are protected, including in the context of armed conflict. Therefore, any allegation against our armed forces is taken with the highest degree of concern and seriousness. My Government assures that all its mechanisms for investigation and military justice are fully in place to deal, as appropriate, with such cases.
With reference to paragraphs 122, 124, and 126, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is conducting a review of its procedures with a view to improving and reporting on and the handling, treatment and turnover of affected children; is ensuring that directives to field commanders concerning child protection sensitivity and measures are carried out in their operations; and strengthening its links with our social development agencies, to ensure effective rehabilitation of these children. Also, to enhance accountability and facilitate coordination, both the military and the police have human rights offices that function as the focal points to dialogue with the UN country team on these issues.
As regards paragraph 125, the military has just re-emphasized in their directives the importance of respecting schools and ensuring that these remain safe for children.
With reference to paragraph 127, it would be helpful if clarification can be provided in regard to the need to bring release and reintegration measures in line with good practices. To briefly describe our procedures in this area—as a matter of priority, our social workers trace the affected children’s parents and relatives who are given psychosocial and even livelihood support for the effective reintegration of their children. In cases where this is not possible, suitable adoption measures, as appropriate, are considered.
I believe that it is our common wish to eventually clear the lists of offending parties. The Security Council may wish to assess the level of commitment, the extent of mechanisms, efforts and progress of implementation and outcomes on the ground as indicators for the de-listing of parties. As the Philippines remains focused on these goals, the Council may consider a stronger focus on the encouragement and inspiration that de-listing can bring to sustain the efforts to protect children in armed conflict.
Indeed, what the Philippines has accomplished so far in the area of children and armed conflict and its excellent cooperation with the UN now justify her dropping from Annex 2 list of entries in Security Council Resolution 1612. Justice demands and due process supports such delisting. Not to do that may perpetuate a double standard of justice vis-à-vis other areas of more serious concerns committed in many places in this suffering world.
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