A child rights group in the Philippines has voiced concern over what it says is a growing number of children being caught up in armed conflict and other forms of violence.
The Children Rehabilitation Center (CRC) noted that at least 18 children have died due to violence caused by conflict while 58 others were victims of drug-related killings
Nikki Aserios, CRC’s deputy director, said, children, especially in poor communities, have increasingly become targets of "state-sponsored violence."
"Human rights violations against children soared to levels almost equaling those during [former president Ferdinand] Marcos' dictatorship," said Aserios.
In the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, CRC reported 13 deadly incidents in schools, while 3,633 children have become victims of "forcible closure"
of educational institutions due to conflict.
Several tribal schools in the region have been closed following allegations they were used as training bases for communist rebels.
In the central Philippines, a declaration of a "state of lawlessness" on the island of Negros early this month has come following the killings of at least 84 people.
"Three of these victims were minors, including a 1-year-old baby who was killed in July," said Aserios.
In the Bicol region, south of Manila, six of 99 victims of extrajudicial killings in the past three years were children.
"Intensified military operations in many parts of the country endanger the children," said Aserios.
She said the presence of soldiers in communities have forced families to evacuate
and children to stop going to school.
Aserios said the CRC has been conducting psychosocial interventions for children who have experienced or witnessed violence.
Psychiatrist Reggie Pamugas said children who experienced conflict-related violence suffer from "life-long consequences," such as trauma and mental health problems.
"The government’s lack of action to address the needs of these children violates their right to rehabilitative care," he said.
Last month, the Philippines underscored its commitment to protect the rights of children in conflict situations during the a meeting in the United Nations.
"The Philippine government seriously takes its role as protector of children," said Ariel Peñaranda of the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
He blamed rebel groups of using schools "to foster their ideology of war and making soldiers out of children."