Don’t forget most vulnerable sector
The Mamasapano incident threatens to derail our progress in the path to peace in Mindanao. The loss of lives in this encounter reminds us of the grave cost of armed conflict.
We should not mistake a call for an all-out war in the region for a quest for justice. We can honor courage of the Fallen 44 and that of their families by pursuing peace and continuing what we have started in the path to peace in Mindanao. We can grieve for the Fallen 44 without having to resort to violence and unnecessarily sacrificing thousands more.
Recognizing the importance of this issue, we should not let politics and emotions cloud our judgment in the search for truth. Challenging as it is to continue, we have to stay committed to finding a lasting solution to the decades-old problem of poverty and violence in Mindanao. We cannot abandon the ongoing discussions on relevant issues in the region, all the more because some issues have not been as thoroughly discussed as the others. One of these issues is the situation of children in Mindanao who have a huge stake in the success or failure of the peace process.
Children are among the most vulnerable segments of a population in times of armed conflict. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that 30,000 to 50,000 children are displaced every year due to different conflicts in the Philippines, many of them in Mindanao. Many more are affected by armed conflicts in different ways, including being recruited and used as combatants, guides, porters and messengers by armed groups or by simply being near the conflict area. In the Mamasapano clash alone, one child was among the seven civilian casualties—a five-year-old girl gone too soon—her dreams shattered by bullets, her precious life destroyed.
How many more children will have to suffer from the horrors of war in our country? It is our moral obligation to work on ensuring that every child is a zone of peace, and that no child dies, be deprived of education and denied of the chance to live a peaceful and productive life because of armed conflict.
Moreover, as a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we have to fulfill our commitment to promoting the best interests of the child and protecting children’s rights.
Let us be firm in our resolve, now more than ever, to work for peace—for everyone, especially for our children!
—ROMEO C. DONGETO, executive director, Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. [email protected]
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