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Solon urges gov’t, rebels to back UN call for ‘humanitarian pause’ during pandemic

/ 11:00 PM April 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate urged the government and communist rebels on Wednesday to support the plan of the United Nations Security Council to call for a 90-day “humanitarian pause” worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippines,  as a UN member, should back the call, Zarate said in a statement.

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And so should the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) “since it has also previously acceded to the UN’s call last March for a ceasefire among parties in conflict in this time of pandemic.”

According to an Agence France-Presse report, a draft of the move “calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days.”

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The measure would be adopted “in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance, provisions of related services by impartial humanitarian actors,” according to the draft.

“But we must also ensure that violations by parties to the conflict would not occur or that the same will be used as a pretext for even more repressive measures or violations of human rights,” Zarate said.

He also called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct an independent probe “on the supposed recent armed encounters between the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and the NPA [New People’s Army] during the lockdown.”

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte had threatened to declare martial law should communist rebels continue engaging in lawlessness.

Duterte accused the communist NPA of stealing goods supposedly for families affected by the pandemic, adding that the group also killed two soldiers.

“Likewise, we also call on the CHR and UNHRC to also investigate the reported indiscriminate military aerial bombings and other violations in the course of its counter-insurgency operations against the NPA rebels,” Zarate said.

The lawmaker also noted that there had been many unreported cases of police and military violations of human rights — not only in Metro Manila but in the rest of the country during the quarantine.

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“This must be stopped; we have to remind time and again members of law enforcement groups and state security forces that the enemy is the coronavirus and not the people, ” Zarate said.

“It is therefore imperative that an independent probe body will look into all of these reported violations while we are at the same time calling for a wider support of this ongoing UN initiative so that affected countries, the Philippines especially, will concentrate its resources in solving the CoVid pandemic with medical and socio-economic measures rather than militaristic ones,” he added.

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TAGS: communist rebels, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Duterte Administration, humanitarian pause, UN Security Council
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