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As part of the celebration of the International Children’s Month, the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns in partnership with Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) and Association for the Rights of the Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA) held its annual Peace Camp for the year 2019 with a theme “#ARTSPIRATION: PURSUING JUST PEACE TOWARDS A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR CHILDREN” on December 07, 2019 at the UP Integrated School. The peace camp served as a platform for the children to voice out their opinions and insights about the Philippine society based on their analysis of their own experiences and situations. The activity was made possible through the support of Philippine Advancement Through Arts and Culture (PATAC).
A total of 171 individuals participated in the culminating activity. Most of the participants are children from urban communities of Tondo, Marikina, Caloocan, Quezon City, Valenzuela and Muntinlupa City. These children are members of Salinlahi Youth Chapters located in National Capital Region (NCR). Lumad children from Mindanao also took part in the event. Aside from various child rights advocates, organizations and volunteers, former Australian Senator Lee Rhianon also graced the event. Unfortunately, children from the Dumagat and Aeta tribes were not able to come to the activity.

Salinlahi primarily held the peace camp to facilitate healing process for children who experienced human rights violations perpetrated by state forces and have undergone psycho-social intervention of CRC’s treatment and rehabilitation program. 

The Peace Camp was consisted of various activities and workshops for children to highlight their creativeness and awareness regarding their rights as well as their meaningful role in the movements for social change and transformation. There are also exhibits, photo booths, and merchandize selling in the area.

Along with activities for children, Salinlahi also used the event to launch the #PinkySwearChallenge, an international campaign in line with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The simultaneous workshops focused on (4) topics including the issue of peace, climate change, children of indigenous people and other situations of children. . The workshops were facilitated by Pilgrims for Peace, Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives (CCNCI), Sandiwa Network of Advocates for National Minorities and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns.

The first workshop was facilitated by the Pilgrims for Peace, a broad alliance of advocates for genuine peace – a lasting peace that is based on freedom, democracy, and social justice. Before starting the art workshop, a brief discussion about the current situation of political prisoners in the Philippines was given to children as well as the reasons why there’s an ongoing conflict in the country and why children should take part in the campaign for peace based on justice.

Ms. Xandra Liza Bisenio, daughter of detained peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Rey Casambre, showed the portray of his father to the children and shared his work in pursuit of peace. Xandra stressed that his father along with hundreds of political activists is now illegally detained over trumped-up charges.

Children were shocked and felt sad when Xandra was sharing her experiences along with other victims. According to Xandra, most of the political prisoners are also parents whose children are now being deprived of the opportunity to live together with their lovedones. She even shared that some mothers were forced to take care of their babies inside prison walls after giving birth while in detention. There were also children who were arrested together with parents and were later on brought to welfare facilities of the government.

The facilitators prepared an art workshop for children to call for freedom of all political prisoners. A coloring activity was given to children in order for them to show solidarity with political prisoners and their families. Children colored and ornamented an illustration of a dove to symbolize their collective aspiration for peace and freedom.

The second workshop was about environmental issues particularly on climate change and was facilitated by the Climate Change Network for Community- based Initiatives (CCNCI). The facilitators discussed the causes and effects of Climate Change worldwide. They gave particular emphasis on the environmental degradation and hazards in the Philippines, and how it affect and will affect children and their families.

In the Philippines, the plunder of natural resources is one of the main causes of climate change. The worse part of it is that the most vulnerable and affected populations are the poor including children who are living below the poverty line. The facilitators asked the children participants what they can do to save the environment from climate change.

The participants did an art workshop depicting their calls for climate action and justice. They also explained the specific actions that can be taken up in response to the crisis including planting of trees, cleaning the surroundings and campaigning for the protection of the environment.

Art Workshop

The third workshop was about the situation of the Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines and it was facilitated by the Sandiwa Network for National Minorities.

The participants of this workshop were mainly the Lumad children of Mindanao. The workshop tackled the struggles and the issues that the Indigenous Peoples in the country have been facing such as militarization and displacement due to the intensified plunder of ancestral lands, foreign large scale mining and agro-industrial mono-crop plantation. The facilitators shared that the Lumad participants are experiencing these violations to their rights. The Lumad children said that they evacuated from their communities and went to Manila in order to raise their calls for the stop of militarization in their community, schools, and ancestral lands.

Sandiwa also shared the current situation of the Dumagat indigenous peoples in Quezon province. A total of 5,000 Dumagat-Remontados will be displaced from their ancestral domain due to the construction of the Kaliwa, Kanan, and Laiban Dam.

The participants felt sad about the situation of the indigenous children in the Philippines. As they showed their solidarity among other participants, they sang “Remember your children” originally sung by Children of Cordillera (CHICO). The lyrics of the song is a message to the government, foreign large scale mining, and agro-industrial corporations. The line “Remember your children, remember your future, remember motherland” points out that we should think about the future of children who will be affected by development agressions.

The fourth workshop was facilitated by the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns where it tackled the current situation of the Filipino Children. Salinlahi taught the children the four basic rights of the child as enshrined under the UNCRC – survival, development, protection and participation rights.

Salinlahi pointed out that in the Philippines, almost half of the whole population of Filipinos are children and 31 % of them are living under the poverty threshold. With the help of students of UP Diliman Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts, the outputs of the participants were short skits depicting situations faced by children – domestic violence against children, poverty, children doing petty crimes just to have food, bullying, among others. It should be noted that some of the workshop participants are direct victims of government’s war on drugs policy.

Theater Arts Workshop

The workshop outputs were showcased at the plenary session where children also had the opportunity to express their opinions on the topics discussed.

At the end of the program, Salinlahi launched the Pinky Swear Challenge Campaign which is in line with the observance of the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC. Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concern was founded years before the birth of UNCRC. For 34 years, Salinlahi was one of the child rights advocacy groups that pushed the Philippine government to sign and to take part in the UNCRC.

Nevertheless, Salinlahi emphasized that the violence against children still prevails all over the world. In the Philippines, the violation against the Filipino Children has worsened under the current administration. According to Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), as of July 2019, 53 minors where killed caused by the war on drugs and 18 minors are victims of political killings, (3 of which are from the Negros island where the memorandum 32 is now being implemented) .

The campaign seeks to renew the unfulfilled promise to children. Aside from service and legislative advocacy, Pinky Swear is also social media campaign where adults, legislators, child advocates are encouraged to post a photo of them doing a pinky swear with children while promising to protect and uphold their rights.

On the last part of the activity, Consuelo Foundation’s donated story books Ang lihim ni Lea and Karapat Dapat were given to the participants together with other advocacy materials. The program was culminated with a solidarity dance led by the Lumad Children performing their cultural dance “Kastifun”.