Gov’t, NPA told to obey Int’l Humanitarian Law after Masbate mine blast killed 2 civilians
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine government soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) fighters were reminded Monday to adhere to the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) after a landmine exploded in Masbate and killed innocent civilians.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) stressed that the use of anti-personnel landmines is a clear violation of the IHL as such weapons cannot distinguish between combatants and noncombatants.
CHR’s statement followed the reported death of two individuals – Far Eastern University football standout Keith Absalon and his cousin Nolven Absalon, who were killed after a suspected mine, allegedly planted by NPA, blew up while biking at an area in Masbate City. The 16-year-old son of one of the fatalities was also injured from the incident.
“A suspected anti-personnel landmine was said to have been detonated by alleged members of the [NPA] while the victims were riding on a bicycle. CHR strongly condemns this act. The use of anti-personnel landmine is a violation of the [IHL],” lawyer and CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
“Not only do they cause exceptionally severe injuries, suffering, and death, anti-personnel landmines also fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants, such as what happened in this case. We stress that even non-State actors, such as the NPA, are bound to respect IHL, alongside the government,” she added.
According to police, the two victims died at the explosion while Nolven’s son, Chrisbin Daniel, sustained injuries and was taken to the Masbate Provincial Hospital for treatment.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Masbate said they were able to seize more improvised explosive devices after a 10-minute firefight with alleged NPA rebels.
INQUIRER.net has sought the side of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which oversees the New People’s Army, but it has not replied as of posting time.
Under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction — which is part of the IHL — anti-personnel landmines have been banned to limit military powers’ weapon options and to ensure that civilian harm is limited.
Also on Monday, PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said he has directed the local police to coordinate with the military units in the area to launch manhunt operations against the suspects.
For its part, CHR said its investigators are conducting its own probe on the incident as well as on another incident in Mlang, North Cotabato, where a bus was burned by one of its passengers.
“In North Cotabato, CHR Region XII is also investigating the case of the burning of a passenger bus in Barangay Bialong in the municipality of M’lang. It was reported that at least three passengers died and six others sustained injuries perpetrated by still an unidentified perpetrator. The motive is also still being determined by proper authorities,” De Guia said.
“In both instances, it is reprehensible that innocent lives continue to be taken because of senseless terroristic acts. We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to the family and friends of the victims,” she noted.
CHR also urged government agencies to work together to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
“All concerned agencies must work together to ensure that accountability is exacted from perpetrators. We stress that the government, in particular, bears the obligation to protect the rights of all, as well as pursue justice for the aggrieved,” De Guia explained.
“Concrete steps must also be done to stop further hostilities and to reduce violence in order to prevent further loss of lives and other forms of violations of rights. #ItigilAngPatayan,” she added.
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