MANILA – The New People’s Army (NPA) is accountable and must answer for all the crimes it has committed, according to a recent social media post by Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon.
The post refers to the June 6 attack of the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on a group of civilians, resulting in the instant deaths of Far Eastern University football players Kieth Absalon, 21, and his 40-year-old cousin Nolven in Barangay Anas, Masbate City. Nolven’s 16-year-old son sustained injuries.
The Absalons were buried on Sunday.
“Even if they choose to be rebels, they are not above the law. They must answer for all their crimes!” Gascon said in his Facebook post on June 9.
The CPP-NPA owned up to the incident and expressed remorse over the “errors in the military action mounted by an NPA unit”.
Initial investigation showed the Absalon cousins died after an anti-personnel mine (APM) exploded.
Further investigation revealed that Nolven had a gunshot wound to the right shoulder as well as his left lateral thigh while Kieth took a bullet to the right eye.
Both died of hemorrhagic shock secondary to the gunshot wounds and blast injuries from the APM explosion.
Identify the culprits
Gascon said beyond owning responsibility, offering indemnity, and promising an investigation, the NPA should also identify all those responsible and surrender them to the lawful authorities so they could face justice within the court system.
Moreover, the CPP-NPA should be held accountable for all other crimes they have perpetrated in the past in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law from the day that they began pursuing this armed conflict.
“Kung hindi nila iharap sa lehitimong husgado ang mga salarin, walang saysay ang kanilang paghingi ng paumanhin. Walang hustisya kung hindi mapanagutan sang-ayon sa batas ang mga kriminal (If they don’t surrender the perpetrators to the legitimate justice system, their apology is useless. There will be no justice if the criminals are not punished in accordance with the law),” Gascon said.
He said that the methods of the NPA to internally discipline and punish their members are no substitute for the legal justice system.
He said the NPA should not harbor the perpetrators and should halt attacks on non-combatants and non-military targets.
Gascon emphasized that violence, in all its forms and manifestations, has no place in a society that upholds the dignity of persons.
“Whatever rules they may have do not and cannot apply in circumstances that go beyond their own membership. The actions of the NPA in this case affected and harmed non-members and non-combatants. In this instance the only acceptable law to apply as to the perpetrators of these criminal acts are either national or international criminal law, not one that can be administered by their so-called kangaroo courts,” Gascon said.
The international community adopted the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention prohibiting the acquisition, production, stockpiling, and use of the weapon.
More than 160 states are party to the APM Ban Convention that went into effect in 1999.
APM is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Even if it is “command-detonated” as alleged CPP information officer Marco Valbuena always justifies, APM kills and can kill civilian non-combatants, according to authorities.
The CPP-NPA is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)