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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 16:56 GMT
Philippine child rebel defiant
Philippine child rebel
Edfu demonstrates his skill at overhauling an M-16 rifle
A twelve-year-old boy captured by the Philippine army in a clash with Communist guerrillas has encouraged his fellow rebels to carry on the armed struggle against the government.

Edfu de la Cruz was captured in a government raid that led to the death of his parents, sister and two other rebels.


We have a rotten system of government. The people have no land to till and are suffering

Edfu de la Cruz
Asked what advice he would give to young rebels, after his experience of being captured, Edfu said: "Do not surrender. Continue the fight."

He also appealed to Philippine President Joseph Estrada to help landless farmers.

He said the military was "OK, but we have a rotten system of government. The people have no land to till and are suffering."

Soldier's skills

At a news conference staged by the army, the boy demonstrated his skill at overhauling an M-16 rifle, including the complicated trigger mechanism.

President Estrada
President Estrada urged to help landless farmers
According to military officials, the young rebel could also treat people with acupuncture, sing the Communist anthem, the 'Internationale', and give basic lectures in Marxist and Maoist theory.

The military authorities said Edfu would be handed into the care of the social services.

He was captured after soldiers raided a rebel safehouse on Sunday in the village of Pinamigsian in Bontoc town, Southern Leyte province.

Child soldiers

A military spokesman highlighted the fact that the Communist rebels were recruiting children for their campaign.

"I was so shocked. I thought I'd be seeing a much older boy," Lieutenant General Voltaire Gazmin said.


Earlier this week, the Philippine defence secretary, Orlando Mercado, held talks in Manila with the visiting head of the United Nations Children's Fund, Carol Bellamy, on what he described as the growing problem of child recruitment by guerrilla groups.

The Philippine Government has faced almost continuous insurgencies from both Communist and Muslim rebels for more than 20 years.

Clashes

At least nine people were killed in fresh fighting in the south of the country on Thursday between government forces and Muslim separatists.

According to a government military spokesman, fighting occurred in six areas in Lanao del Norte province and started when about 200 guerrillas from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) attacked a military detachment.

Reports vary as to whether the rebels or the government forces came off worst in the clashes. According to some reports, a farmer was caught up in the clashes and died.

The MILF is the biggest of the Muslim insurgent groups fighting for an independent Islamic state in the Mindanao region, 800 km (500 miles) south of Manila.

The clashes occurred during a break in peace talks between the two sides aimed at ending a 28-year rebellion.

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See also:

20 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines peace talks off
23 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
Philippine dream of Islamic state
08 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
Muslim rebels insist on independence
08 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines reform package shelved
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