MANILA, Feb. 3, 2014— A Catholic bishop has expressed deep concern over the alleged recruitment of child soldiers by a breakaway Moro rebel group in Southern Philippines.
In a radio interview Monday, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad condemned the reported use of “minors” by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in engaging the military in Maguindanao.
The church leader said that the practice of recruiting children into the armed forces is against human rights law and is unacceptable.
“It is unbelievable that children are used as soldiers. Our Muslim brothers must stop it,” Jumoad told Church-run Radio Veritas.
“Mindanao will never become peaceful if children are exposed to violence,” he pointed out. “Children must be in school so that Mindanao will have a bright future.”
Since Jan. 26, clashes between the BIFF and the military erupted in Maguindanao following the signing of the final annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
On Sunday, the government forces ended its “Operation Darkhorse” against the rebels after they captured four rebel camps and a bomb factory of the BIFF in Maguindanao.
The soldiers also recovered an undated photo from one of the BIFF camps last Saturday that showed what are believed to be child combatants aged 15 to 16. (CBCPNews)