MANILA – The New People’s Army (NPA), and officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), collectively referred to as a Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) may be compelled to indemnify victims of their human rights abuses and atrocities in the amount of billions, a spokesman for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said on Wednesday.
Undersecretary Severo Catura, Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS), explained that under existing local and international laws, particularly the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), parties that are found guilty of such abuses and atrocities committed in a situation of internal armed conflict may be compelled by the courts to indemnify their victims.
Under Section 14 of Republic Act No. 9851, or the “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity” signed into law on Dec. 11, 2009, Catura said the courts follow the principles relating to reparations, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation, and determine the amount of the same based on the scope and extent of damages inflicted.
“However, regardless of the amount that shall be determined and demanded by the courts, it cannot equal the pain and suffering brought about by past and present human rights abuses and atrocities perpetrated by the CTGs,” said Catura, also NTF-ELCAC spokesperson on Human Rights, Peace Process and international Engagements.
Catura said it is high time that the CTGs be held accountable for their “spate of willful killings, their destruction of government and private property, their use of children as combatants, their internal purges, and their wanton disregard for human rights”.
“Already, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has submitted a list of CPP-NPA atrocities and the same shall be judiciously acted upon,” Catura said, “and we shall likewise refer the matter to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that has ably guided our Armed Forces in the strict observance of IHL in their line of duty.”
The ICRC is a major partner of the Philippine government in the EO 134 Ad Hoc Committee for the State’s continued observance of IHL, co-chaired by the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Likewise, we shall inform the appropriate United Nations body, through the UN Resident Coordinator and the Senior Human Rights Adviser in the Philippines of this development,” Catura said.
He reminded that no less than the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, in its report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, mentioned human rights abuses and atrocities committed by the NPA.
The Palace official’s pronouncement came as the AFP-Center on the Laws of Armed Conflict (AFP-CLOAC) revealed last Monday that the CPP-NPA was responsible for a staggering 1,506 atrocities and IHL violations recorded from 2010-2020.
AFP-CLOAC Director, Brig. Gen. Jose Alejandro S. Nacnac, told newsmen that this proves without a doubt that there is “a nationwide pattern of organized, orchestrated, continuing, deliberate, and systematic scheme perpetrated by the Communist Terrorist Group which justifies their designation as a terrorist organization”.
532 incidents of destruction
The AFP has consolidated 532 incidents of destruction of civilian-owned properties by the CTGs.
An example of which was the attack in Taganito Mining Corporation in Claver, Surigao Del Norte in 2011 resulting in the destruction of the facilities and several pieces of equipment.
Another group of rebels attacked the nearby Platinum Metals Group Corp. also in Claver. Three hours later, another mine site operated by another Taganito company, Taganito HPAL Corporation, was also attacked by the rebels.
Then Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo estimated the damage at USD1.5 billion (PHP72 billion) while some news reports claimed that actual damage could run up to as high as USD3 billion. This is besides the 4,000 to 5,000 employees who were affected by the attacks.
Recently, a total of 289 incidents of willful killing were consolidated by the AFP-CLOAC. These killing incidents committed by the CTGs during the 10-year period caused the deaths of 77 soldiers and 296 innocent civilians, or a total of 373 victims of assassinations.
“Members of the CTGs should face charges for violating Republic Act 9851. They are not only criminally liable but also civilly liable for damages,” Nacnac pointed out.
Meanwhile, Catura said the whole country, not only the victims, should ask the CPP-NPA to account for their abuses and compensate their hapless victims.
Recruitment of child warriors
Besides conducting terrorist attacks, records show that the communist group was responsible for the recruitment of 464 child warriors who were rescued by government troops from their hellish plight.
The highest number of children forcibly taken by the NPA was from Region 11 with a total of 141 incidents.
Of the 464 child warriors who were rescued, 25 were abused by their NPA captors, Nacnac pointed out.
Aside from these grave violations of IHL, the NPA also indiscriminately used “anti-personnel mines” which, according to Nacnac, is also a violation of the Geneva Convention and other international treaties.
He said there were a total of 141 recorded incidents involving production, stockpiling, transporting and use of these illegal mines which caused 224 casualties, including injuring or killing dozens of civilians.
The NTF-ELCAC officials said the first three categories of IHL violations were already submitted to the Commission on Human Rights and to other agencies which promised to conduct motu propio investigations.
In April this year, the NPA disrupted an ongoing farm-to-market road project in Surigao City by torching the contractor’s heavy equipment.
Surigao City Mayor Ernesto U. Matugas Jr. condemned the attack, adding that “it has also disrupted the progress that we have made so far as building concrete roads for easy transport of the people and goods from the barangays to the city and vice-versa.” (PNA)