Office of the President
of the Philippines
Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat
We mark this year's observance of International Human Rights Day and the simultaneous commemoration of the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 with a strong reaffirmation of our commitment to the protection of Filipino children and youth.
We are determined that every Filipino must continue to enjoy the fruits of peace, freedom, and progress. But, such a resolve can only be fully realized in a society that allows our children and youth to rise a productive movers and future leaders of the country.
Last month, we joined the world in celebrating the 30th anniversary of a landmark human rights instrument, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through the years, this Convention has inspired States to advance children's rights as essential in defining relevant government directions for the effective promotion, protection, and fulfilment of human rights.
Among the States advancing children's rights is the Philippines. Its Constitutional fiat that values the dignity of persons and guarantees full respect for human rights is specially focused on the development and well-being of the Filipino children and youth.
Under the Duterte administration, the Philippines laid out interventions through a National Plan of Action for Children that envisions a child-friendly country characterized by a "caring and protective society for and by children." In keeping with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Plan pushes for healthcare and nutrition-related policies and programs; and directions for the special protection of children and youth from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitations, and other conditions prejudicial to their development. Along the same track, children and youth are guaranteed free education up to the tertiary level.
But there is a serious threat to these efforts of the government. In various parts of the country, our children and youth are exploited by groups that advance terrorism. Children and youth, mostly from indigenous communities and as young as 11 years old, are trafficked by local armed Communists, taken to the hinterlands, and forced into becoming warriors. While, some of them have been rescued by government forces, some were not as fortunate as they became casualties in armed encounters where they were ordered to participate by their abusers.
We are committed to quell this terrorist threat against our children and youth. We shall fully implement the "Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act" which the President signed in January this year. The government, through the Department of Education, will see to the closure of schools, such as the 55 Salugpongan schools in Mindanao, that are found to be training grounds for the raising of child warriors. In their places, new educational facilities will arise. Through the parents, relatives and loved ones of these children, we shall appeal to the thousands of youth that have been lured to terrorism to return to their families. We shall encourage them to reclaim their role in nation-building.
A much better future for the Filipino children and youth; a progressive society where they can thrive and develop their full human potentials! This is the vision that rouses the Duterte administration to action. Let us move as one to achieve it.
SALVADOR C. MEDIALDEA