MARAWI CITY, Philippines – The child combatants of the Maute Group were as young as 10 years old and they were the fiercest among the fighters, said a former Maute hostage.
Lordvin Acopio, a teacher from Dansalan College, said he saw up to 17 child warriors inside the battle area while he was still held captive by the terror group. He was rescued on September 16 after he and Catholic priest Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub made an escape from Bato Mosque during a heavy firefight that forced their guards to abandon them.
"Matatapang. Mas pursigido. Mas may gustong patunayan (They were brave. They were more determined. They wanted to prove themselves)," Acopio told reporters on Tuesday, September 26.
Acopio said it was clear the children have been brainwashed to join the local terror group linked with the international terrorist network Islamic State. They wanted to seize the city and establish a caliphate in Mindanao.
Acopio said it scared him how the children have been hardened by an ideology that they were too young to understand. (READ: I met a Maute soldier. He's a child)
Acopio recalled how a child combatant insisted on fighting in the frontlines instead of staying with his dying father, also a Maute fighter.
The children also liked to watch violent ISIS propaganda videos which included footages of beheadings. Once, Acopio recalled, he told them how disgusting these videos were, but the children defended their watching them.
Acopio said the children who will survive the war will need a lot of help to correct their beliefs. – Rappler.com