Discipline: Social Science
This is a study on human rights violations committed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in its recruitment of boys and girls as child soldiers. It is based on primary and secondary data taken from interviews and unpublished researches. Respondents are from the two Lanao provinces.
The recruitment of children into the MILF denied them of their opportunities. Children as young as 7 years old are deliberately taken into MILF camps to be given military trainings and to perform auxiliary services. Consequently, they are brought away from the school and from the safety of their homes. These young recruits are indoctrinated to fight for a jihad aimed at the establishment of an independent Islamic state. They are motivated by a religious obligation and the lure of martyrdom which are systematically inculcated to them by their elders in the camp. The process develops young people who believe that armed struggle is their only option available for them to be delivered from poverty and bad governance.
By exposing these young boys and girls into armed conflict not of their making, the MILF violated International Humanitarian Law (IHL), particularly Protocol II on the prohibition on the recruitment of children to become fighters and involving them into hostilities. Having attained a belligerent status, the MILF leadership must be reminded that it has the responsibility to respect International Humanitarian Law. Ironically, the MILF may not and cannot stop the entry of children into its ranks. Only good governance in Mindanao can stop the recruitment of child soldiers.