MANILA, Philippines — A military general has put a spotlight on 1Sambayan, publicly questioning the political coalition’s “deafening silence” on the accountability of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the deadly Masbate landmine blast last weekend.?
“Are we hearing from 1Sambayan about the incident in Masbate? Is it really just the issue of the West Philippine Sea you can criticize?” Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. posted in Filipino on his Facebook account yesterday.
“For a group that prides itself of being nationalistic, the silence is defeaning.”?
Commanding general of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), Parlade is known for being outspoken and using his social media accounts to air his anti-Leftist sentiments as one of the spokespersons for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).?
Following the landmine explosion that killed Kieth Absalon, 21, a former star player of Far Eastern University (FEU) men’s football team, and his cousin Nolven Absalon, 40, in Barangay Anas, Masbate City, the NPA issued a statement taking full responsibility for the incident.
The military has since launched operations that have so far killed three rebels in the city, while the police released necropsy reports on the Absalon cousins, indicating that apart from fatal injuries as a result of the explosion, they also sustained bullet wounds that could have caused their deaths.
Parlade also called out 1Sambayan convenor, retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio, on the issue as well as former Bayan Muna party-list group lawmaker Neri Colmenares, whom the general had previously tagged as a communist rebel leader.
“AJ Carpio, sir, kindly poke Neri Comenares; he might have something to say on the killing of Keith and Nolven Absalon,” he said in his post.?
Known for red-tagging various public personalities and activist groups and goading critics of the Duterte administration, Parlade added: “Justice is what the nation is asking for. You might have an opinion about the use of landmine by the NPA or on International Humanitarian Law. Let’s make a stand that it be known now.”
Crime against humanity
As the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA apologized over the incident and vowed its own investigation, government officials pointed out that it was an international crime against humanity.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) led the call for the CPP-NPA to surrender those responsible.
?Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said the CPP-NPA’s refusal to turn over the perpetrators shows that they are just pretending remorse.
“They have never been sincere, in the first place, and we have expected this from them. The CPP/NPA will not listen to reason, stuck in their crooked and twisted way of thinking,” he said.
Yesterday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) condemned the NPA’s use of landmines, saying no ideology can justify the blatant disregard for law and humanity.
“We strongly condemn the use of anti-personnel land mines, seek justice for the innocent victims, and demand full accountability and punishment for those who callously deployed the land mines,” IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa said in a statement.
Cayosa noted that the Philippines is a signatory to the 1997 Ottawa Treaty (Mine Ban Convention) that bans the persistent, indiscriminate and inhumane nature, the use, manufacture and sale of anti-personnel land mines. Manila is also part of various United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions against it.
Last Thursday, the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID) based in Davao de Oro destroyed a total of 57 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) previously seized from the NPA the past year.
“Can you imagine the impact of these IEDs to a person by just witnessing the detonation?” said Maj. Gen. Ernesto Torres Jr., 10th ID commander, as he condemned the explosion that killed the Absalons.?
Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, spokesman for DILG, said the perpetrators should be held liable for violation of Republic Act 9851, the Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes against Humanity.
Malaya slammed the Makabayan bloc that insisted the concerned NPA members should face charges under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL) through the defunct joint monitoring committee (JMC).
“RA 9851 is the correct legal platform where the families of victims and our government can assert and exact accountability and get justice. CARHRIHL is just an agreement, this is a law,” he said.
?For its part, the NTF-ELCAC said that CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison and other communist leaders should be held accountable, citing 141 incidents involving production, stockpiling, transporting and use of banned weapons by the NPA, resulting in the injury or death of over 30 civilians.
?“The leaders of the CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front), especially Sison, are personally accountable for the killing of the Absalons under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and domestic law,” said Undersecretary Severo Catura, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat executive director and NTF-ELCAC spokesman on human rights, peace process and international engagements.?
Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc has called for an investigation on the killing of three individuals being linked to the Masbate landmine blast, claiming those killed in subsequent military operations were not rebels. – Evelyn Macairan, Jose Rodel Clapano, Emmanuel Tupas, Romina Cabrera, Artemio Dumlao, Edu Punay, Rhodina Villanueva