‘Zones of peace’

February 21, 2019

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III is right.

“ Zones of peace “ should not only refer to places or locations.

They must pertain to people, children in particular.

This is because children are often in the crossfire of armed conflict.

By declaring children to be “ zones of peace “, arm combatants from both state security forces and rebel groups would be discouraged to engage each other in areas where children abound.

The Senate President (Wednesday) welcomed the signing into law of a measure providing for the special protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

President Duterte on Tuesday signed Republic Act (RA) 11188 entitled "Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act," which provides protection to children from all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, cruelty, discrimination and other conditions prejudicial to their development.

"It's heartwarming to finally see the bill made into law. Filipino youth wins in this law," the Senate President said.

Sotto, who is the principal author of the measure that he filed on May 29, 2017, said that children, because of their vulnerability, are the ones who suffer the most from in situations of armed conflict.

"They are the ones who are members of displaced families as a result of armed conflict, physically weakened, orphaned or disabled as a result of armed conflict, combatants and those mobilized for other armed conflict-related activities and disrupted from schooling due to armed conflict," the Senate chief said.

"Children are recruited and forced to become soldiers due to the fact that they can be easily manipulated and that their innocence are being abused," he said.

"Children in war are robbed of their innocence. The trauma of losing their family members, constant displacement and the disruption of their education during their formative years creates a life-long of disrupt and insecurity," he added.

Under the newly-signed law, treatment of children as "zones of peace shall extend beyond territorial or geographical boundaries and shall focus on the person of the child whose rights shall be promoted and protected at all times."

The law states that children in situations of armed conflict shall have the right to life, survival and development; right of special respect and protection against any form of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violation, especially in the context of armed conflict; and the right to be treated as victims.

They shall also enjoy their right to be accorded with special respect and protected from any form of direct or indiscriminate attacks and acts of violence; right to be protected from recruitment into government forces or armed group and from participation in armed conflict; and right to be protected from maiming, torture, abduction, rape and killing, especially extrajudicial killings.