SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance issued this press statement concerning the recent lawsuit filed by the families of New People’s Army (NPA) soldiers who showed signs of severe torture and mutilation after an encounter with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP):
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) salutes the families and relatives of members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who were killed in Tineg for demanding the government to truly respect of international humanitarian law, and for the resumption of the peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
They have filed complaints against State violations of the international humanitarian law in spite of threats and harassments by State security forces. The filing of the complaints signed by families and human rights defenders was a first in almost a decade.
This was done on October 17, 2012 and marked a victory for human rights and IHL. Families especially the sons and daughters and relatives of the Tineg and San Narciso 11 trooped to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) National office and to the GPH Section of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to file their complaints against state security forces on their gross IHL violations committed against their families and other members of the New People’s Army.
In October 10, 2011, 8 guerrilla fighters perished in Tineg, Abra. Based on the statement issued by the Agustin Begnalen Command (ABC)-NPA Abra said; that the 7 guerrilla members bore physical signs of severe torture and mutilation of the dead committed by the elements of the 503rd and the 41st IBPA.
Also, on June 30, 2012, 11 guerrilla fighters perished San Narciso, Quezon province. Like the Tineg 8, the so- called San Narciso 11 also suffered similar IHL violations, the desecration and mutilation of the dead.
Named as perpetrators of the CARHRIHL violations in the Tineg, Abra incident include Lt. Jeson Capoquian of the 41st IBPA who led the assault and all the other unidentified troops attached to the 41st IBPA of the 503rd Brigade, Col. Noel Baluyan – commanding officer of the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and Col. Eliseo Posadas – commanding officer of the 503rd Brigade.
The perpetrators in the San Narciso, Quezon incident was identified as the 74th IBPA based in Mulanay, Quezon.
The Tineg 8 and San Narciso incidents are one of the many incidents showcasing gross IHL violations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines such as the desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict, and the breach of duty to immediately tender the remains to their families or to give them decent burial.
As defined, International humanitarian law is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. International humanitarian law is also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict.
IHL is also a recognition that wars are a reality. With this principle, all parties to the armed conflict shall take all necessary precautions and actions to adhere to the Conventions, Protocols and other IHL documents even at the height of war in the hope to humanize war.
In the Philippine context, there is an on-going civil war waged by the belligerent force – the New Peoples Army (NPA) against the present government. Both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the CPP-NPA-NDFP are signatories to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL) done in 1998 as a result of the Peace Negotiations between the two parties which clearly specify rules of war.
The families of the Tineg 8 and San Narciso 11 held a picket at the National Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Camp Aguinaldo to express their rage over the IHL violations committed against their families who were members of the revolutionary forces.
Some of the children of the San Narciso 11 bravely spoke of their experiences of being threatened and harassed by state security forces while they were retrieving and burying their loved ones. Relatives of the Tineg 8 echoed the same experiences in the hands of the perpetrators. The families and relatives and the Tineg 8 and San Narciso 11 were supported by various human rights advocates and defenders in the protest action. The group challenged the AFP to strictly adhere to IHL.
This active participation of families in filing complaints and leading public engagement especially on IHL cases should serve as an inspiration and challenge. Though, there is limited democratic space to advance cases like these, families, relatives and human rights defenders should continue to assert the call for justice, adherence to the IHL and to urge both parties especially the GPH to seriously resume the Peace negotiations. The momentum started by these families and support groups should not stop here.
As victims and human rights defenders we should not be cowed by state terrorism in our struggle for the defense and assertion of human rights and international humanitarian law. Together with the wider society, our strength and voice cannot be matched by camouflage uniforms, bullets and canons.