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National Democratic Front of the Philippines denies NPA uses child soldiers

LONDON, England - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) spokesperson Fidel V. Agcaoili denied that the New People's Army (NPA) use child soldiers to fight for their cause.
In a letter sent to ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau head Danny Buenafe, he reiterated that the claims in the news article 'PH rebels use child soldiers,' a report based on an international conference in Helsinki, Finland last March 9, led by the newly appointed Secretary General of Child Soldiers International, Richard Clarke, are unsubstantiated.

In the March 9 panel discussion, Security Team Leader of Finland Foreign Ministry Counselor Satu Suikkari Kleven and Save the Children's international programs director Anne Haaranen joined Clarke in tackling the issue of human rights policy on the protection of children in armed conflict. In the same discussion, the speakers disclosed that "children throughout the world, including those in the Philippines, are recruited to kill."

In the letter dated March 29, Agcaoili said that the claims against the NPA from the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 2008, are false.

"As early as 1988, the Political Bureau (PB) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has decided as a matter of policy to raise the minimum age of recruitment to the NPA at 18 years old. Following the memorandum of the Executive Committee (EC) of the CPP in October 1999, the Basic Rules of the New People's Army has been formally amended to stipulate 18 years old as recruitment age to the NPA as regular combatant," the letter said.

It also added that "in 2002, the Central Committee (CC) of the CPP conducted a review of the implementation of the policy and commended the NPA's faithful adherence to it. The CC of the CPP also discussed the disciplinary measures that may be imposed on NPA commands and responsible Party units in case of any violation, and called on the participation of local organs of political power and mass organizations in various areas and communities in ensuring strict implementation of the CPP policy."

Agcaoili maintained that reports on so-called NPA child soldiers are unverified and unsubstantiated and came from 'polluted sources.'