Communist terrorism persists despite pandemic: Medialdea

Communist terrorism persists despite pandemic: Medialdea

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea (PNA File photo)

MANILA – “While the country battles coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), internal armed conflict continues to beleaguer the Philippines, our country as the threat posed by local communists persists.”

So said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in his statement read at a webinar on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) on August 20, in observance of IHL Day.

“The trying times wrought by the pandemic have not deterred extortions, harassments, ambuscades, and killings by terrorists, thereby derailing the effective delivery of relief goods and other basic services to far-flung communities by our national and local governments, with the assistance of our men and women in uniform,” Medialdea said in his statement.

Specific acts of terrorism, he said, have been reported to the  National  Task  Force to  End Local  Communist Armed  Conflict, at a time when the government aggressively responds to contain the spread of an invisible enemy and mitigate its impact on Filipinos and the economy.

“The list of incidents is long, but each province that suffered these terrorist acts is worth mentioning. Atrocities occurred in the provinces of Abra, !locos Sur, Tarlac, Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, Palawan, Occidental Mindoro, Masbate, and Albay in Luzon; Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern  Samar,  Leyte,  Iloilo,  and  Bohol in the Visayas; and Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Davao de! Sur, Davao de  Oro, Davao de! N01ie, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, North  Cotabato,  and South Cotabato in Mindanao,” Medialdea added.

As he lamented that in every instance, the wound was inflicted on the whole country, he vowed that these acts will not remain unaddressed as government forces stay focused on their mission to protect national security.

“The work will always be done in full cognizance of IHL rules that respect the right to life and the freedom from violence not only of State enemies wounded in battle or rendered out-of-combat but more importantly, of innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire and whose communities are in need of economic succor in this time of the pandemic,” he said during the webinar sponsored by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Human Rights Office in partnership with non-government organization Sulong PEACE and attended by senior commanders and officials, human rights officers from all the major AFP services and commands, among others.

The observance of IHL Day, which actually falls on Aug. 12, was moved to Aug. 20 by the Department of National Defense that chairs the IHL Ad Hoc Committee. The Department of Foreign Affairs alternately co-chairs the observance on a yearly basis, pursuant to Executive Order 134 issued in 1999.

The committee is also composed of representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, AFP, Philippine National Police, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, International Committee of the Red Cross in Manila, Philippine Red Cross, and Commission on Human Rights.

Adherence to IHL

“It is this time of year that we once again gather to affirm the Philippine government’s continued commitment to adhere to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as a State party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols,” Medialdea said.

He added that in keeping with IHL, the government is reminded that uplifting the dignity of the people in such difficult times remains the government’s utmost concern.

This, he said, is embedded in and underpins relevant laws, such as Republic Act (RA) No. 9851 on crimes against IHL, genocide, and other crimes against humanity; RA No. 10530 on protecting the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems; RA No. 11188 on special protection of children in situations of armed conflict; and most recently, RA No. 11479, or the enhanced law on preventing, prohibiting, and penalizing acts of terrorism.

“It is crucial that our people realize the relevance of IHL and related local laws to their lives. The DND’s program to launch a public information campaign on IHL through social media will surely enrich our people’s awareness of the efforts of the government, especially the security sector, to protect its citizens,” he said.

The DND’s nationwide webinar on the legal instruments that reinforce IHL implementation will serve the same purpose, he added.

“These efforts will go a long way in truly making IHL a shared responsibility, and I encourage the DND to pursue such endeavors in earnest and to involve other government instrumentalities as well,” Medialdea said.

He also lauded DND, chair for 2020 of the IHL Ad Hoc Committee for spearheading the inter-agency commemorative activities this year, guided by  the  theme “IHL: Preserving Human Dignity in the Midst of Armed Conflict: A Shared Responsibility.”

“I also commend the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs as committee co-chair and of the other Executive agencies concerned in these activities,” he said. (PNA)

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