Army: No war crime committed in Tiamzon operations
MANILA, Philippines —The Philippine Army asserted on Monday that no war crime had been perpetrated during the operations that resulted in the death of communist stalwarts Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, along with eight others.
Major General Edgardo de Leon, former commander of the 8th Infantry Division, responded to the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL)’s claim that the Tiamzon couple’s killings point “to the commission of war crimes by the military.”
De Leon said government troops “only attack legitimate targets” in line with the rules of engagement in armed conflict as stated in the international humanitarian law.
“Hangga’t maaari, ayaw nating ilaunch ang operation sa mga lugar na dadaanan nila na may communities, kaya hinintay natin magsail sila sa dagat (As much as possible, we don’t want to launch the operations in areas where there are communities, so we waited until they sailed into the sea). That is part of our precautionary measures,” De Leon said in a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo.
“Sa operation, walang ibang damage. We made sure walang ibang madadamay; walang property na madadamay (In the operation, there is no damage, we made sure that no other people and property will be involved). There is no war crime there,” he added.
The NUPL echoed the account of Communist Party of the Philippines spokesperson Marco Valbuena, who vehemently asserted that the Tiamzon couple were subjected to barbaric torture, and their remains, along with eight other individuals, were unceremoniously dumped onto a motorboat that was subsequently blown up in Samar last August 2022. Valbuena also added that the Tiamzon duo and the other eight persons were defenseless and unarmed.
De Leon, however, maintained that no such thing occurred, saying that the passengers in the motorboat fired toward government troops before their vessel exploded.
“The hostile boat started the firefight; our troops launched the operation, but instead of stopping, they responded violently. They started firing at our troops,” De Leon said, pointing out that this made them a legitimate target.