MANILA, Philippines—The government panel monitoring the peace process with communist rebels on Friday denounced the New People’s Army’s refusal to surrender the suspects behind the grenade attack early this month in Davao City that injured 47 persons, most of whom were children.
In a statement, the Government of the Philippines Monitoring Committee (GPH-MC) said the NPA’s admission that the attack in Paquibato District on September 1 was a mistake and its subsequent payment of P5,000 to each of the 47 victims “would not be sufficient to give the victims, many of whom were children, true justice.”
“If it were truly a champion of human rights and international humanitarian law, the NPA would readily surrender (the rebel) perpetrators of the Paquibato bombing and their other (human rights violations) to the Philippine justice system, which, however imperfect, remains a far better legal remedy … than the ‘justice system’ of the NPA,” the committee said.
It noted that the NPA has long maintained that its forces were “well-versed” in human rights and international humanitarian law.”
“In signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL) through its political entity the National Democratic Front, the NPA has in effect held itself accountable to these standards,” the committee said.
The GPH-MC is the counterpart of the National Democratic Front-Monitoring Committee. Both committees form the Joint Monitoring Committee, an entity that oversees and ensures compliance to CARHRIHL.
The GPH-MC statement echoed an earlier statement of lawyer Alex Padilla, chair of the government peace panel dealing with the communist rebels, who dismissed the indemnification offer as a mere “stopgap and diversionary measure.”
The NPA had said they would deal with the case through their “own justice system” but the GPH-MC said that it had “never been transparent—open to the public, the media, nor the government.”
“The NPA’s refusal to submit themselves to the Philippine justice system, does not change the fact that the group is not above international HR and IHL principles and laws, which they and their legal entity, the NDF, continually invoke when they allege violations” by the government’s security forces,” the committee said.
Padilla earlier denounced the grenade attack as an “uncivilized and irresponsible act” and constituted a grave violation of human rights.”
“If the group sincerely wants to put a solution to the country’s problems, the rightful way would be to go back to the negotiating table with the government and exhaust ways on how to work together in reaching just and lasting peace,” Padilla said.
Last September 1, the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command of Southern Mindanao admitted its operatives threw a grenade at a fiesta gathering in Paquibato.
In a statement to media, the NPA claimed the grenade was intended for a nearby military detachment but was mistakenly lobbed into a civilian crowd gathered for a circus performance.