For decades the country has contended with armed Muslim separatist movements supported by paramilitary organizations such as the MILF and the MNLF, a communist insurgency supported by a nationwide NPA presence, and violence by smaller, transnational terrorist organizations (such as the ASG and the JI), and from criminal syndicates. During the year government forces killed a number of civilians during clashes with these groups. There were continued complaints that the AFP, in confronting the ASG and NPA, illegally detained citizens, destroyed houses, and displaced residents. Clashes between the AFP and separatist forces, as well as incidents of interclan “rido” (feuds) violence, continued in Mindanao and resulted in civilian deaths and the displacement of thousands of individuals.
Killings: Government forces continued to acknowledge civilian deaths in the course of military operations against the MILF, the MNLF, the NPA, and other insurgent groups. From January to October, AFP operations killed suspected members of ASG (76), NPA (75), and BIFF (21). From January to June, the PNP reported killing four NPA during its operations.
Antigovernment groups continued to be responsible for killing AFP soldiers, police, and civilians. From January to October, the AFP reported 76 of its members killed in action during encounters with insurgents. The PNP reported that NPA militants killed two PNP personnel as of June.
Muslim separatists, including the NPA, the ASG, elements of the MILF, and the breakaway faction BIFF, continued to use roadside bombs, ambushes, and other means to kill political figures, military and police officers, and civilians, including persons suspected of being military and police informers. On July 28, suspected ASG members ambushed two passenger vans with 50 civilians on board, killing 23 persons in Lower Talipao, Sulu. Security forces reported the ambush was a retaliatory action against ten of the passengers who were members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team, a paramilitary group that supported military and police in law enforcement operations against the ASG in the province. On May 12, suspected BIFF members detonated a roadside bomb near Meta Bridge in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao, that killed two soldiers and wounded three. On March 22, the NPA claimed responsibility for killing an agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Sorsogon City for allegedly protecting drug traffickers in the Bicol Region.
Elements of the MILF, the BIFF, and other terrorist groups, including the NPA, the ASG, and JI, also menaced government offices and attacked or threatened businesses, farms, and private communication facilities to enforce collection of extrajudicial protection payments, so called “revolutionary taxes.” For example, on June 27, 50 suspected NPA members raided and destroyed three banana plantations owned by the Dole Food Company, Inc. in Surigao del Sur Province after the company reportedly refused to pay extortion demands.
Abductions: Various armed criminal and terrorist groups, including the ASG in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, continued to kidnap civilians. Authorities often ransomed or rescued victims. According to the PNP, from January to July the ASG, the NPA, and other kidnap-for-ransom groups abducted 29 persons in several areas of Mindanao, including 19 from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Bangsamoro). As of July captors killed one, 20 were rescued, released, or had escaped, and eight remained missing or were still in captivity.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Leftist and human-rights activists continued to report harassment by local security forces, including abuse of detainees by police and prison officials. Rape did not generally occur as a weapon of war, but women risked exposure to crossfire or faced the threat of sexual violence or intimidation.
Child Soldiers: In August 2013 the president signed Executive Order No. 138, amending Executive Order No. 56 (S. 2001), which aims to strengthen the government’s program to protect children against armed hostilities. E.O. 138 places the Inter-Agency Committee on Children in Armed Conflict (IAC-CIAC) under the direct supervision of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), instead of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Under this directive, the council is the lead agency in the implementation of the CIAC Program Framework, which addresses the involvement of children in armed conflict. The order also formalized the establishment of a Monitoring, Reporting, and Response System for Grave Child Rights Violations in Situations in Armed Conflict to act as the monitoring arm within the CIAC program framework with the primary objective of protecting children in situations of armed conflict by preventing the occurrence of grave child rights violations. On July 25, IAC-CIAC member agencies signed the memorandum of agreement on E.O. 138 to operationalize the monitoring, reporting, and response system for victims of grave child rights violations in the context of armed conflict. In February the CWC confirmed an incident reported through the media involving three child soldiers killed in weeklong fighting between the AFP and the BIFF in Maguindanao. Local officials helped confirm the identification of the minor combatants.
The United Nations, through its local UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) agency, monitored incidents of recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts and worked to verify these incidents. Government reporting mechanisms on children associated with armed conflict continued to be inconsistent between agencies and regions, especially in conflict-affected areas, due to security concerns, which made it difficult to evaluate this problem’s scope.
Child soldering remained a problem, particularly with local terrorist and anti-government organizations. In the early part of the year, the government completed a decade of negotiations and signed a peace agreement with the MILF allowing for the release of children from MILF ranks. In July the MILF reconstituted a new five-member panel to monitor full implementation of the UN-MILF Action Plan to monitor grave child rights violations.
The May 15 report by the UN secretary-general to the UN Security Council noted that armed groups, including the MILF, NPA, MNLF, ASG, and BIFF, continued to use children in armed conflict. The latter two increasingly engaged in fighting in 2013 in opposition to the peace process between the government and the MILF. For example, the MILF used at least seven boys between 14 and 17 years of age as combatants and porters in their attack on Zamboanga City in September 2013, resulting in the deaths of two boys. The MILF reportedly used at least 150 civilians, including 13 girls and 19 boys, as human shields during the operation.
The NPA continued to claim that it did not recruit children as combatants, but admitted that it recruited, trained, and used them for noncombat purposes. In two separate incidents in May, the AFP reported that it rescued child combatants from the NPA ages 14 and 17 years old in Sitio Tuburan, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The AFP handed over the14-year-old minor to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and returned the 17-year-old to his family.
According to the country task force report, the United Nations remained concerned over the use of children by government security forces as guides and informants during operations against insurgents. The task force reported a verified case of a 12-year-old boy used as an informant by the police during the September 2013 attack in Zamboanga City.
Although the UN secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict and the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the country’s Communist Party, in 2011 agreed to develop an action plan, they had not finalized a framework as of August.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt.
Other Conflict-related Abuses: According to media reports, the NPA and separatist groups set fire to villages and used residents as human shields. For example, on May 3, a group of armed members of NPA took 39 residents of Mahayayhay, Maragusan, Compostela Valley Province as human shields as they fled from military troops. They later released all hostages. The NPA and some separatist groups were responsible for a number of arbitrary detentions, including kidnappings and hostage taking for ransom.
The AFP sometimes used civilian facilities, such as schools, to house soldiers overnight during military operations in remote areas. The AFP continued to implement the guidelines it developed for sheltering in schools.
The NPA, the ASG, and JI targeted mining and other extractive industries for extortion and authorities suspected them of trafficking illegally obtained products, including timber.
The NPA continued to subject military personnel, police, local politicians, and other persons to its “revolutionary people’s courts” for “crimes against the people,” often in absentia, and to justify some of its killings as executions of “defendants” who it found guilty. The MILF also maintained its own “people’s courts.”