The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) sternly warned the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other groups involved in armed hostilities to stop recruiting teens as part of their ranks. Else, they will be held liable for human trafficking charges with the highest possible penalties imposed by the law.
Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, chairperson of IACAT, expressed alarm over reports of teenagers, as young as 15-16 years old, being among the casualties in the recent skirmishes between the government forces and insurgents in Mindanao.
“Any form of recruitment of children to aid in armed conflict is a reprehensible practice and is rightfully condemned by all nations,” De Lima added. She said BIFF leaders will also likely face human trafficking charges aside from terrorism etc.
According to Section 5(h) of Republic Act 9208 as amended by Republic Act 10364, recruiting, transporting or adopting a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad are considered an act trafficking in persons. This is elevated to ‘qualified human trafficking’ if “by reason or on occasion of the act of trafficking in persons, the offended party dies” as stated in Section 6(g) of the same law.
“Children used as combatants suffer in a number of ways, most of them suffer in silence,” De Lima said.
Section 10(e) of the RA 9208 states that any person found guilty of qualified trafficking shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than two million pesos (P2,000,000.00) but not more than five million pesos (P5,000,000.00);
“It is incumbent upon us to put an end to these horrors,” De Lima concluded.