Human Rights Watch has written about children in the armed conflict in the Philippines

HRW has written at least three articles on children in the armed conflict in the Philippines

To claim: Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international non-governmental human rights organization, has not written about children in the armed conflict in the Philippines.

Rating: FALSE

Why did we check this: The claim can be found in a Nov. 9 post on the Facebook account of retired Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., a former spokesman for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). At the time of writing, the post already had 243 reactions, 5 comments and 33 shares.

The relevant part of Parlade’s message reads: “Why can HRW write horrible stories about children in armed conflict in Syria, Africa and other parts of the world BUT NOT IN THE PHILIPPINES?”

The bottom line: Human Rights Watch has, in fact, written at least three articles on children in the armed conflict in the Philippines, contrary to Parlade’s claim that this is not the case.

2011: On October 11, 2011, HRW published “Philippines: the army falsely labels children as rebels” where he describes his investigation of an incident in which the Philippine military publicly declared that some children were rebels under the New People’s Army (NPA).

HRW said it found enough evidence to conclude that the children’s alleged involvement with the NPA was “fabricated by the military” and added that after the children were released, “the Philippine military continued to harass and to intimidate children and their families”.

2012: HRW, in an article from October 16, 2012, “Philippines: Amending the Child Soldiers Bill”, also called for the amendment of a bill at the time, the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Bill, one of many such bills in 15th Congress as the “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act 2011”.

In the same article, HRW pointed out that while the version of the bill it discussed is especially commendablea section Holding parents and guardians accountable for their children joining an armed group “sets the bar too low for criminalization and is open to abuse and misinterpretation.” HRW proposed an amendment “only to ensure that the real recruiters of child soldiers can be brought to justice.”

2016: An article from February 16, 2016, titled “Dispatches: Fighting Child Soldiers in the Philippinesand written by Carlos H. Conde, senior researcher at HRW, also discusses the use of children in the armed conflict in the Philippines, this time allegedly by the NPA.

The article quoted a 2013 Report to the United Nations Security Council by the Secretary-General which discussed children in the armed conflict in the Philippines, including the use of child soldiers, involving the NPA as well as other organizations such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He also stated that “the armed forces [of the Philippines] undermined his credibility on the issue” and cited his precedents Article from October 11, 2011 on the Philippine military’s false labeling of children as NPA.

Parlade red markup: Parlade’s Facebook post also included a red HRW tag: ‘Who sets the agenda? Of course, it’s Joma’s CPP and its collective alliance. He referred to Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Rappler reported instances of Parlade red-tagging various personalities like celebrities Liza Soberano, Catriona Grayand Angel Locsinjournalist INQUIRER.net Tetch Torres Tupas, community pantry that have emerged during the pandemic, such as the Maginhawa Community Pantry organized by Ana Patricia No and various educational institutions.

Even HRW itself wrote about Parlade’s red marking, in its February 10, 2021 article, “Philippine general should answer for ‘Red-Tagging’.”

Previous fact check: Rappler also fact-checked at least one claim made by Parlade before – the claim that Satur Ocampo, a former representative of Bayan Muna, is running for senator in the 2022 Philippine general election. – Percival Bueser/Rappler.com

Percival Bueser is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and an editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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