PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure providing for the special protection of children in situations of armed conflict, in an effort to protect them from "all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, cruelty, discrimination and other conditions prejudicial to their development."
Under Republic Act (RA) 11188, the state is mandated to take all "feasible" measures to prevent the "recruitment, re-recruitment, use, displacement of, or grave child rights violations against children involved in armed conflict."
The law states that children in situations of armed conclict shall have the right to life, survival and development; right of special respect and protection against any form of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violation, especially in the context of armed conflict; and the right to be treated as victims.
They shall also enjoy their right to be accorded with special respect and protected from any form of direct or indiscriminate attacks and acts of violence; right to be protected from recruitment into government forces or armed group and from participation in armed conflict; and right to be protected from maiming, torture, abduction, rape and killing, especially extrajudicial killings.
They have the right to be immediately provided and have safe access to basic needs; right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose residence; right to leave the country; right to obtain necessary documents to enjoy legal rights; right of access to justice; and right to be consulted shall be observed.
RA 11188 directs the state to institute policies, program and services for the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of children in situations of armed conflict.
The programs, which will be provided by civilian local and national government agencies, in partnership with non-government organizations, should aim at providing services for children while involving their families, communities and other entities to facilitate the children's reintegration process.
Killing, torture, and intentional maiming of children are considered grave violations of child rights, RA 11188 states. Any person found guilty of committing such crimes will be meted the penalty of imprisonment of 14 to 20 years and a fine of P1 million to P2 million.
The law also provides that it is unlawful for any person to commit hamleting, food blockade, intentional delayed reporting of a child in custody, false reporting of a child in custory, false branding of children as children involved in armed conflict, and arrest of children allegedly associated with armed groups or government forces.
An individual found performing such unlawful acts will be imprisoned six to 12 years and have to pay a fine of P500,000 to P1 million.
Any public officer who will "knowingly and maliciously" prevent, prohibit, refuse, or discontinue the implementation of the law, or in any other way violate it, will be punished by imprisonment of six to 12 years and perpetual absolute disqualification from public office.
A government official who will prevent, prohibit, refuse, or discontinue will be jailed for one month to six months and will face temporary special disqualification from public office.
To effectively undertake the protection of the welfare of children involved in armed conflicts, RA 11188 reconsitutes the Inter-Agency Committee on Children Involved in the Armed Conflict as the Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (IAC-CSAC).
The IAC-CSAC will be chaired by the Council for the Welfare of Children.
Members include the Armed Forces of the Philippines; the Commission on Human Rights; the departments of Local Government, Health, Education, Justice, National Defense, and Social Welfare; local government units; national commissions on Indigenous Peoples and Muslim Filipinos; Offices of Civil Defense and Presidential Adviser on Peace Process.
Other members are Philippine Commission on Women, Philippine National Police, and two civil society organizations working in the same field.
RA 11188 was signed by Duterte on January 10. A copy of the law was released by the Palace on Tuesday, February 19. (SunStar Philippines)