Army dares Karapatan to probe NPA’s rights violations

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MALAYBALAY CITY — Officials of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) on Saturday renewed their condemnation of the atrocities of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), daring the leftist human rights group Karapatan to investigate the rebels’ violent acts.

Brig. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army’s 403rd Brigade, challenged Karapatan to investigate the 2017 abduction and killing of three individuals, whose remains were exhumed in Kitaotao town, Bukidnon on Thursday.

“I call on Karapatan, the self-declared watchdog of IHL (International Humanitarian Law), to investigate this case and release its findings to the public. Maybe the media would want to seek comment from Karapatan on this particular incident,” De Leon said.

Thursday’s exhumation of the remains of the abducted victims were led by the police and the Army’s 89th Infantry Battalion and joined by the victims’ relatives who have long been seeking justice for the disappearance and death of their family members in August 2017.

Authorities said the remains, buried in Barangay Digongan, belonged to retired policeman Joel Rey Miqu Galendez, Army Sgt. Reynante Havana Espana, and tribal leader Datu Dionisio Camarullo Havana.

According to de Leon, the witness to the killing was proven accurate as the police’s crime scene personnel exhumed the three cadavers that were later identified by the relatives as the missing individuals.

De Leon said the exhumed cadavers and the revelation of the eyewitness, who himself was a former member of the NPA’s Milisya ng Bayan, proved that the rebels are the ones perpetrating extrajudicial killings.

“The execution carried out by the NPA is a clear violation of IHL. They killed non-combatants. If they would claim that those cadavers were captives, then the more that they are liable for IHL violation, punishable under RA (Republic Act) 9851 (under which) captives are supposed to be taken care of,” he said.

RA 9851 refers to the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

“If they are sick and wounded, they should be sent to the health service provider. Moreover, the datu (tribal chief), who was a civilian, should not have been held captive because he has no direct participation in the armed conflict,” de Leon added.

He said the autopsy on the victims’ remains may reveal how the NPA carried out the execution.

“But many people have seen how ISIS (Islamic State) terrorists execute people, and I am certain that the victims were executed the ISIS way. Therefore, the NPAs are really terrorists, worthy of public condemnation and (should) be declared by communities as persona non-grata,” he said.

Losing ground

Meanwhile, the military claimed that the NPA is losing ground in Bukidnon after another town, Cabanglasan, condemned the rebel’s atrocities.

In a resolution passed by the town council, local officials enumerated the alleged “inhumane” acts of the communist rebels in Cabanglasan, “including arson, shooting incidents, detonation of anti-personnel mines, ambuscades, and continuous extortion activities to ongoing projects in the area.”

“These gruesome acts have affected the peace and order situation of the community. It has also disrupted and immobilized business activities, stifled economic growth that led to discouragement and withdrawal of potential investors and caused undue fear to the civilians,” the resolution reads.

Town mayor Renante Inocando said the persona non-grata declaration against the NPA reflects the town’s effort to pursue “peace and development”.

“We strongly condemn the CPP-NPA terrorist attacks on the lives and properties of the people of Cabanglasan. We are sick of them,” Inocando said, referring to the rebels’ founding organization, the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Lt. Col. Ronald M. Illana, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion, lauded the decision of the local officials, describing it as “proof that the people are now realizing the deceptions of the CNTs (CPP-NPA terrorists).”

“We believe that there will be no more hindrance to the government in delivering basic services,” Illana said. (PNA)

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