At least 113 persons were killed while 262 others were hurt by landmines and improvised explosives devices (IEDs) set off by the New People’s Army (NPA) over the past decade, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Sunday.
Citing its recent study on landmine blasts, the military said the communist insurgents detonated landmines and other homemade bombs in carrying out 107 armed attacks in the last 10 years.
“(The use of) landmines and IEDs, which are usually followed by ambuscades, are prohibited tactics long practiced by the NPA since the beginning of their armed violence,” the AFP said in a statement.
It said the use of landmines by the communist rebels was proof of the NPA’s “declining capability to engage government troops.”
“The increasing trend on the use of IEDs by the NPA shows that the insurgents are shifting strategies due to their dwindling number and lack of firearms and ammunition,” the military claimed.
“Thus, the insurgents will try to offset the more superior and more advanced (military and police) firepower capabilities by using IEDs.”
The AFP said the NPA rebels would continue to utilize landmines in their bid to “sow fear among innocent civilians from peaceful communities and force business owners and private individuals to give in to their extortion demands.”
Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, head of the AFP Human Rights Office, said the military was collating evidence regarding the landmine blasts in preparation for the filing of cases against leaders of the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
He said Republic Act 9851, or the “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity,” was a “breakthrough law for the enforcement of international humanitarian law… in the Philippines.”
“We now have a law that will make them accountable for crimes against humanity,” Tutaan said, adding that the use of landmines has long been prohibited under the Geneval Convention.
“We call on all sectors (of our society) for a collective effort to stop the NPAs from using IEDs and end the useless armed violence. The NPA’s use of IEDs has been their continuing violation of international humanitarian law and human rights,” he said.
But the issue of war crimes has also hit the Tutaan family. Tutaan’s younger brother, Col. Federico Tutaan, was tagged in the killing of botanist Leonard Co in Kananga, Leyte, in November 2010.
Contrary to the claim of the military, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Co and two of his companions did not die in a crossfire between NPA rebels and soldiers in the area.
The CHR had since recommended the filing of criminal charges against Colonel Tutaan and seven of his subordinates involved in Co’s death.