RONRON is a 15-year-old school drop-out in this city. His father is a master cutter in a tailoring and is the sixth child in a sibling of seven. He stopped schooling due to poverty and instead attends the Alternative Learning System of the Department of Education every Saturday.
Out of poverty, Ronron learns to make a living early in his life. He experienced selling pandesal in the morning and helping out in the household chores of neighbors just to earn a few pesos.
Recently though, Ronron feels like hitting a jackpot with his new found work. He earns hundreds by just bringing guns of policemen during their operation in Maguindanao.
Ronron said he was first approached by a certain policeman he only identified as SPO1 Mama who happens to be the father of his friend here in Davao City. The cop allegedly offered him a job in Maguindanao.
At first he was not told what would be his job, but upon arriving in the area he was ordered to bring guns and ammunitions and tag along with the policemen who were conducting operation.
"SPO1 Mama advised me to ask permission from my father that I will be going with him to Maguindanao but when I told my father he opposed the idea. But I still went to Maguindanao, anyways I was just away for two days," Ronron said in vernacular.
The infamous November 23 Maguindanao massacre happened just a few weeks before he went to the said province. Ronron said that for just two days work tagging along in the police operation he was paid P300.
He went home safely then as the policemen did not encounter any lawless armed groups during the operation.
On June 29, 2010 the policeman again invited him to Maguindanao still to bring their guns and ammunitions. It was then that he experienced his first armed encounter. They were walking for several kilometers while bringing a .38 pistol and a shotgun when shots were fired from the mountains.
Ronron said they were advised by the police authorities to stay put and hide while the cops advanced towards the enemy position. He was with other teeners who happen to be relatives of some police officers.
A few hours after the encounter, Ronron said they went back home. He overheard the cops talking about the armed men they killed in the mountain.
Ronron went back to Davao City on July 8 safe and unharmed, for now. When asked if he would still return to Maguindanao if invited again by the cop, Ronron said he would and this time he would bring camera to document his experience.
Ronron's father was unaware of his new livelihood. The last trip he had made him earn P600. Ronron said he spends his money to the mall and by buying food that he wants to eat. The father, by the way, is totally unaware of his son's job.
"I just tell my father that I'm just touring in Maguindanao. I did not tell him that I bring guns and ammunitions and tag along with the police during their operations," Ronron said.
Just recently, both the New People's Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines accused each other of employing minors as combatants.
In a report entitled "Child Soldiers in the Philippines" by Merliza Makinano of the International Labor Affairs Service of the Department of Labor and Employment, it said that the increasing number of children involved in armed conflict is due to a number of factors.
They join the ranks because of: (1) psychological reasons (i.e., thrill and excitement); (2) social tension (i.e., peer pressure); propaganda; and (4) forced recruitment or abduction. Armed groups target the emotional, psychological, mental, or physical vulnerabilities of the children, as well as the situations in their families or communities.
Human Rights Watch observes that children most likely to be recruited are: (1) poor; (2) separated from their families; (3) displaced from their homes; (4) living in a combat zone; and (5) with limited access to education. They also come from communities, which have inadequate social services.
"Recruitment of children usually takes place in areas where there is less or no government presence at all. The adolescents are usual targets for recruitment as soldiers. They are trusting and innocent like a child, yet have the strength and stamina of adults. When they are in the movement, they are also impulsive and aggressive especially when their families have become victims of NPA liquidations or military aggressions. According to the military, an estimated 2,000 minors fight in the NPA and the MILF."