Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
The Philippine Army Soldier’s Handbook on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (2006) provides:
While not in combat:
4. Do not allow any person below 18 years old to take part in the armed conflict
. Children shall be considered as zones of peace and shall enjoy the protection of the State against dangers arising from an armed conflict. Children shall not be recruited or employed by the government forces to perform or engage in activity necessary to and in direct connection with an armed conflict either as a soldier, guide, courier or in a similar capacity which would result in his being identified as an active member of an organized group that is hostile to the government forces.
In its glossary, the Handbook further notes: “Children
– refers to persons below 18 years of age or those over but unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.”
The Act on Child Protection (1992) of the Philippines, in an article on “Children in situations of armed conflict”, provides: “Children shall not be recruited to become members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or its civilian units or other armed groups.”
The Philippines’ Republic Act No. 8371 (1997) on the rights of indigenous cultural communities/indigenous people states:
Rights during Armed Conflict.
- ICCs/IPs [Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous People] have the right to special protection and security in periods of armed conflict. The State shall observe international standards, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, for the protection of civilian populations in circumstances of emergency and armed conflict, and shall not recruit members of the ICCs/IPs against their will into armed forces, and in particular, for the use against other ICCs/IPs; not recruit children of ICCs/IPs into the armed forces under any circumstance; nor force indigenous individuals to abandon their lands, territories and means of subsistence, or relocate them in special centers for military purposes under any discriminatory condition.
The Philippines’ Republic Act No. 9208 (2003) on trafficking in persons states:
Sec. 3. Definition of Terms. – As used in this Act:
(b) Child – refers to a person below eighteen (18) years of age or one who is over eighteen (18) but is unable to fully take care of or protect himself/herself from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.
Sec. 4. Acts of Trafficking in Persons. – It shall be unlawful for any person, natural or judicial, to commit any of the following acts.
(h) To recruit, transport or adopt a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad.
The Philippines’ Republic Act No. 9231 (2003) on the special protection of children against child abuse, exploitation and discrimination states:
Sec. 12-D. Prohibition Against Worst Forms of Child Labor. – No child shall be engaged in the worst forms of child labor. The phrase “worst forms of child labor” shall refer to any of the following:
(1) All forms of slavery, as defined under the “Anti-trafficking in Persons Act of 2003”, or practices similar to slavery such as sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.
In 1993, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Philippines stated: “Children are not to be recruited into the Armed Forces of the Philippines or into any armed group.”
In 2002, in a speech at the 6th Asia Pacific-Middle East Regional Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the President of the Philippines stated:
… I thank the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in soothing the suffering of the victims of terrorism even as I ask you to elevate other issues related to conflict or terrorism to a higher place in the agenda of your action and advocacy plan.
One, is an active campaign, I hope, against the employment of children and minors in combat. This comes to my mind, because just a week ago, I attended a surrender ceremony of former communist rebels and saw how they still continue to be recruited at such an early age to wage war against the government. I ask for your support and cooperation in facing this serious challenge to the community of civilized nations.
In 2007, in its report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the Philippines stated:
10. The Philippine government does not at all allow the direct participation of the country’s minors in warfare. This is manifest in the policy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to enlist into the armed forces only persons who are 18 years old and above. This policy is contained in the Memorandum Circular No. 13 on Selective Enlistment/Reenlistment of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines signed in July 1991.
192. There are very clear legal mechanisms as well as administrative guidelines that have been adopted by the government which prohibit the recruitment of minors into the armed forces. The policy of the non-recruitment of persons under 18 is well established.