Items filtered by date: Saturday, 11 March 2017

Hundreds of MILF child soldiers released in Philippines

Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest armed group, ends recruitment of children as part of peace plan.

Hundreds of child soldiers have been released by the Philippines' main separatist rebel group, continuing its commitment to end the recruitment and use of children within its ranks.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), one of the most powerful armed groups in the country, released the children on Friday as part of an action plan with the UN.

Reporting from the disengagement ceremony in Lanao del Sur, Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan said Friday's release did not happen overnight.

"This is something that started eight years ago," she said. "It required a lot of ground work, a lot of investigations, a lot of re-education, not just of leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but also of parents who have had their children exposed to combat."

In 2009, the group signed an action plan with the UN to end the recruitment of child soldiers, a practice that extends over generations.

The first in a series of disengagement ceremonies took place in February and the group will eventually disengage more than 1,800 children, according to UNICEF.

Some of the children fought on the front line with the group, but the majority performed tasks as couriers and support staff.

Richard Heydarian, a professor of political science in Manila, told Al Jazeera it is important to remember that many of these child soldiers were born into the conflict.

"We have to keep in mind that this is not like South Sudan or Sierra Leone ... where you have these children ripped apart from their family and forcibly coerced to become child soldiers," he said.

"Many of these children are actually very much part of the fabric of the community that has been supporting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front."

The Islamic group, based on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, has fought for succession for decades, routinely recruiting and using children within its ranks, according to UNICEF.

Al Jazeera's Alindogan said Friday's ceremony shows the sincerity of the MILF in making sure the "third and fourth generation of children are not going to end up with the same fate as their parents and grandparents".

The children who are released will be offered scholarships to finish school, as well as support from the government and NGOs for full integration back into society.

"The release of children from the MILF is only the beginning of the next phase of their youth. The next step is to ensure that these children receive support," UNICEF's country representative Lotta Sylwander said last month.

Example for other armed groups

The number of child soldiers in the Philippines remains unknown. Mindanao is home to a number of armed groups who use and recruit combatants under the age of 18, according to the UN.

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The cost of protecting the Trump family

"It’s not easy or cheap," as per estimates gathered by The Washington Post

Early reports from the nation's capital paper have stated that President Trump and his family would supersede what it cost to protect former President Barack Obama and his family by 'hundreds of millions of dollars.'
According to Judicial Watch, a well-known conservative group that kept track of Obama's travel expenses, an estimate of $97 million was spent during the former president's eight years in office.
The period under report has set forth an example of just four weeks into the 45th president's term.

Enumerated below are but a few examples thus far:
· 3 trips to Mar-a-Lago in Florida since the Trump inauguration, may have cost about $10 million, based on a government report from October that provided an analysis of the White House travel which includes expenses on the cost of US Coast Guard patrol boats on the shoreline.

· Palm Beach County officials announced how they will request reimbursement of tens of thousands of dollars per day from the White House, for their deputies who provided “security and logistical support around the city.”

· Police officials have provided estimates on what it would cost New York $500,000 a day or $183 million a year, to guard Trump Tower, where First Lady Melania Trump and the ten-year old Barron Trump live.

· Secret Service and embassy employees paid some $100,000 in hotel room bills during a trip to Uruguay by a Trump son, Eric. Reportedly, he went to that South American city where he
promoted a "Trump-branded building."

· Should the Pentagon successfully secure rental space in Trump Tower -- "needed" when the president returns to New York -- it would cost $1.5 million per month, per information received from the building's website according to news reports.

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Undocumented Filipinos Are Living a Special Nightmare in Trump’s America

Under fire from Washington, rejected by Manila, and overlooked by many Americans, undocumented Filipinos are linking arms with others in the anti-Trump resistance.

As paranoia spreads over the Trump administration’s promised immigration crackdown, there’s a video circulating around California’s immigrant communities.

In it, two people — Lolita Lledo, an immigrants rights activist, and Steve Angeles, a reporter — are making rounds in a Los Angeles neighborhood. Lledo has of late been bombarded with rumors of immigration officers poking around local businesses. To keep the hysteria at bay, the two have been investigating the claims.

Lledo’s organization is erring on the side of caution — a day later they run a “know your rights” workshop for locals. Someone posts a picture on Facebook, grabbing only the backs of participants so that it’s a sea of black hair. “Standing room and fully-packed,” the caption reads.

Lledo has a reason to be on-edge. Recently, headline-grabbing ICE raids were carried out on Asian-American communities like theirs.

Yes, Asian communities. Lledo and Angeles are Filipino-American — or Fil-Am, as many in the community shorten it.

Donald Trump distinguished himself last year by calling Mexicans rapists and vowing to build a wall along the southern border. Elected into office, he ante-ed up on the anti-Mexican demagoguery with a travel ban on Arab and African Muslim travelers. But promises to end undocumented immigration target so-called “model minorities” too.

In fact, in addition to having the fastest-growing documented immigration rate in the United States, Asian Americans also have the fastest growing rate of undocumented immigration. A sizable number of these, like the nervous residents of Lledo’s community, are Filipino.

According to American governmental agencies, there were 2.1 million Filipino immigrants in 2015, making it the fourth largest immigrant community in the U.S. The Commission of Filipinos Overseas, an agency of the Philippine government, pegs the number even higher, at 3.5 million.

The number of undocumented Filipinos, or TNTs — for tago ng tago, literally “in perpetual hiding” — is also in contention. The Department of Homeland Security places the number at 310,000, but other estimates range as high as 800,000.

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Elha Nympha sings Sia’s “Chandelier” | Little Big Shots Season 2

12-year old Filipino singer Elha Nympha sings Sia’s “Chandelier” on Steve Harvey’s LITTLE BIG SHOTS Season 2. Elha won grand champion in The Voice Kids of the Philippines (Season 2). She is also one of the 8 contestants in YOUR FACE SOUNDS FAMILIAR KIDS (Season 1, Philippines).

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