Army condemns rebels’ human rights violations

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Friday, December 9, 2011

THE 4th Infantry Division (4ID) of the Philippine Army condemns the New People’s Army (NPA) movement for allegedly condoning the human rights violations of its members within the division’s area of responsibility this year.

In an emailed statement, the 4ID said from January to November 2011, there are 154 violent activities of the NPA rebels that were recorded by the combined efforts of the operating troops of all subordinate units of 4ID in the provinces of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.

“Calendar year 2011 marked a very grim episode for all human rights advocate in Northern Mindanao and Caraga for the blatant disregard of the NPA rebels of the basic rights of our fellow Filipinos in the two regions,” the 4ID said.


It added that of the three regional committees of the NPA confronted by 4ID, the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee committed the largest number of human rights violations in the AOR.

The 4ID claimed that the said regional committee conducted 64 atrocities that were directed not only against government troops but also to business owners and innocent civilians, while the North Eastern Regional Committee committed 57 violent activities and the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee with 33.

The most notable of these violations, according to the 4ID, is the burning rampage that the rebels from Guerilla Front 16, 21 and 30 of NEMRC conducted against the Taganito Mining Company, PGMC and TH Pal Mining in Surigao del Norte last October 3.

“Based on the findings of the investigation conducted to find out the real motive behind this carnage, the NPA rebels burned down the equipment and facilities of the three mining companies to compel owners to give them money and armaments,” the 4ID said.

The estimated total loss incurred after the incident amounted to P3 billion worth of burned equipment and facilities.

“Due to this atrocity, a lot of our poor brothers and sisters lost their source of livelihood and income that resulted to thousands of families without food on their table,” the 4ID added.

One incident that also gained the ire of the whole nation, according to the 4ID, was when the NPA rebels abducted six foam peddlers from Initao, Misamis Oriental in the area of Bukidnon last August.

Reportedly, the six peddlers were all from poor families and were just trying to earn an honest income for their family.

“These individuals were forcibly taken and were only released after almost two months, depriving them and their families opportunity to earn a living to cover the most basic of their needs,” the 4ID said.

It added that the rebels also conducted several harassments this year. This included the strafing, harassment and raid of police stations; ambush of military and police convoys, including government troops who were on reinforcement to distressed communities and facilities.

The 4ID added that another human rights violation of the NPA is the case of Bibeth Calinawan, a lumad who accidentally tripped an improvised explosive device (IED) that was hastily placed by the NPA in their community’s common watering hole near the riverbanks in Sitio Mahaba, Cabadbaran City.

“While the Philippine Army, specifically the 4ID, strongly frowns on the use of these explosives for this is against the provisions of the Geneva Conventions on the use of land mines, the NPA rebels, on the other hand, proliferates its use in skirmishes against government troops to impede the movement of pursuing elements,” the 4ID said.

“Instead of being sorry for the fatal wounding of Bibeth because of their doing, the NPA made up stories to cover up their fault. They concocted vicious lies and made public statements that Bibeth Calinawan was indiscriminately shot by soldiers and was forcibly taken. But Bibeth’s personal account disproved these allegations and was even thankful for the troopers for extending medical assistance to her,” the 4ID added.

To further stress the culpability of the NPA in this case, it said that not a single bullet was extracted from the body of Bibeth after surgery.

“According to the attending doctors of Bibeth, her wounds were caused by the defragmentation of IEDs, based on the fragments and shrapnel removed from her body,” the 4ID said.

The Army also claimed that the NPA violated the rights of children when it employed them as combatants, look-outs and couriers. At least three children were earlier rescued by 4ID soldiers.

“Although these children already gave out their affidavits to prove that they were really employed by the NPA, the rebels blasted the Armed Forces of the Philippines for fabricating stories against them. But with the surrender of 80 NPA rebels to the 8th Infantry Battalion last November 14, the 4ID now has strong evidence to implicate the NPA as violators of our children’s rights,” the 4ID said.

Through debriefing and interviews with Benjamin Salusad, leader of the 80 NPA surrenderees, it was revealed that out of the total number of those who surrendered, 19 are minors when they were recruited to join the NPA.

“When I assumed as the Commanding General of 4ID, I have made it clear in my guidance for all the 4ID soldiers to uphold everyone’s human rights in all their undertakings. Zero tolerance against human rights violations shall be implemented at all times, and if any soldier violated this, I encourage the people to file formal complaints and I will personally see to it that the proper procedure of the law will be followed,” said Major General Victor A. Felix, 4ID Commander.

Major Eugenio Julio C. Osias IV, Commanding Officer of the 4th Civil-Military Operations Battalion, said these incidents and activities proved the culpability of the NPA.

“They have violated most of our basic human rights but don’t have the guts to face the consequences of these. They are fond of pointing their fingers to the AFP but have forgotten that there are three more fingers pointing at them. If they say that they are for the people and fighting for the people, they should cease their senseless atrocities and start working with the government to achieve genuine peace in our country,” Osias said.

He added that to respect for human rights, is to respect the duly established government of the people.

“If they say they have issues against the government, there are proper forums for their voices to be heard. Inflicting pain and suffering to our fellow Filipino will never make any wrongs of the past right,” Osias added.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 10, 2011.

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