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Sunday, February 10, 2013
THE Negros Provincial Police Office and the National Democratic Front Philippines found common grounds during the Barangay Puso, La Castellana ambush: the commission of war crimes.
According to Negrense Luis Jalandoni’s statement posted at the Philippine Revolutionary Web Central, the “GPH and its military and police officials are the ones culpable for war crimes for issuing high powered rifles and other firearms to paramilitaries, and allowing the police and paramilitaries to commandeer and hostage civilians.”
Jalandoni’s statement attempted to override 1) NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command’s apology, an admission of guilt, to some of its victims; 2) the forgiveness begged from families that the LPC considered as their civilian victims; and 3) LPC spokesperson JB Regalado’s promise to extend assistance to the victims and to impose sanctions on those responsible for the incident.
In fact, Jalandoni has the cheek to demand that “The GPH should admit its (war) crimes, apologize, and compensate the civilians.” He in effect exonerated the NPA assailants of any war crime culpability and publicly chastised JB Regalado, subtly called him a liar for admitting guilt.
I find Jalandoni’s demand on the GPH amusing—except for one chilling thing. He virtually gives NPA units the go-signal to go on similar killing rampages. “Protected persons” under the International Humanitarian Law has been rendered meaningless according to the NDFP’s rules of war.
Noppo’s Senior Superintendent Celestino Guara upgraded the nine counts of murder charges to violations of Republic Act 9851, or “war crimes” against the LPC. Its Section 8 stipulates that a person shall be criminally liable as principal for a crime if he or she orders, solicits or induces its commission, including “accomplices.” It also imposes a penalty of reclusion temporal and a fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 on any person found guilty of any of these crimes.
With the filing of “war crimes” charges, Guara pointed out that the CPP-NPA-NDFP face more difficulty for attaining a belligerency status among the international community. War crime accusations against State and non-State actors go beyond the political issue of belligerency status or of State power, however. In fact, the issue is immaterial.
Dr. Raúl Pangalangan, former dean of the UP College of Law, said during the 2006 Asian Parliamentarians’ Consultation on the Universality of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that “Before arms, the laws fall silent. Without international law, armed conflicts were seen as a purely Darwinian struggle, the survival of the fittest, and its human casualties solely as the inevitable, almost natural cost of social change.”
Dr. Pangalangan noted the de-politicization of the enforcement of norms and places the campaign for human dignity squarely on legal footing. Is the NDFP a political or a judicial power that can try or absolve the LPC’s guerillas on the massacre of civilians? In the absence of a third party certifier such as the ICC on its competence as a court of law, I take the Jalandoni assertion with a barrelful of salt.
In fact, prosecution of war criminals can be internationalized, with the burden of prosecution “away from the reach of partisan national groups” such as the NDFP. In the context of the Barangay Puso massacre, the burdens of human rights accountability are equalized “between the State and non-State actors.”
Pangalangan adds that the “ICC provides legal and non-political standards by which to manage armed conflicts.” The ICC norms and standards have set aside the “just war” theory with no one asking who has the superior cause. What is required is to look into the conduct of hostilities.
Jalandoni’s statement is thus grossly wanting and riddled with conflicts of interests. It is based on partisan interests, not on a competent judicial inquiry founded on due process. Let an internationally recognized court of law such as our regional trial courts try the accused war criminals under the LPC.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 11, 2013.