MANILA – The Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives condemned the “military action” of a unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) that resulted in twin deaths in Masbate City on Sunday.
The six-member bloc issued a statement on Wednesday after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA took “full responsibility” for the unprovoked anti-personnel mine (APM) attack that killed Far Eastern University (FEU) football player Kieth Absalon and his cousin, Nolven.
Nolven’s 16-year-old-son was wounded.
The Makabayan bloc is composed of party-list Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), France Castro (ACT Teachers), and Sarah Elago (Kabataan).
“We condemn the military action by a unit of the NPA in Masbate City that caused their death and injuries to others for violating international humanitarian law,” the joint statement read.
“Our commitment to human rights binds us to condemn any and all acts that harm or kill unarmed civilians, non-combatants, and protected persons in situations of armed conflict.”
The bloc also extended its “deepest condolences” to the families and friends of the fatalities
They urged the Absalon family to file a complaint before the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).
The lawmakers explained that the JMC accepts complaints on the non-compliance by either the CPP-NPA or the government and its security forces on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
“Filing a complaint with the JMC will serve as an important reminder on the need for both the signatories to the CARHRIHL — the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that represents the CPP-NPA — to always abide by the laws of war: All non-combatants, civilians and civilian populations should be spared and protected, so that there will be no more Absalons to be needlessly lost,” they stated.
The bloc also welcomed the CPP-NPA statement acknowledging and accepting full responsibility and expressing deep remorse over the Absalons’ deaths.
“We look forward to a full and impartial investigation into the incident, and to the CPP-NPA’s response to any complaint to be filed against them with the JMC,” they said.
They stressed that the incident should compel the government and the NDFP to fully reactivate the JMC and to reopen the formal peace negotiations in order to fully address the root causes of the raging armed conflict.
Absalon, 21, won multiple Midfielder of the Year awards and was named Most Valuable Player of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 78 (2015-2016).
He was also a six-time UAAP champion in high school football, the most anybody can win in the league, and competed in the 2018 Asian Football Federation Championships in Indonesia as a member of the Philippine Under-19 team.
He was part of the first 11 of the FEU Tamaraws prior to the cancelation of Season 82.
“Kieth’s toughness on the field and constant smiles off it will truly be missed by his brothers in the men’s football team and the entire FEU community,” FEU posted on Facebook.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) also called on the CPP-NPA to turn over those responsible for the crime so that they may face public trial for their crimes.
“Now that the CPP-NPA has accepted full responsibility for the senseless murder, it now becomes its duty to turn over the terrorists responsible for the deaths so that justice may be served to their families and loved ones,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said in a news release.
Año said it is not enough that they took responsibility and let bygones be bygones.
“The ends of justice require that those responsible must be held accountable for their crimes against the people under the laws of the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
He challenged the Makabayan bloc to demand the turnover of the suspects as it is their sworn duty as government officials and as members of the House of Representatives.
This is the least they can do for the families and loved ones of the victims who demand justice, he said.
The use of APMs is a violation of the International Humanitarian Law and the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention adopted by the international community, prohibiting the acquisition, production, stockpiling, and use of weapons.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense (DND) also slammed the CPP-NPA’s arrogance over the incident, which it said “further compounds” their crimes against the Filipino people.
“In all the decades of the CTG’s (communist terrorist group) existence, the deaths of the Absalon cousins are, unfortunately, just two cases in the long list of crimes committed by the CPP-NPA. We, therefore, call on the Filipino people to unite and condemn the atrocities, and reject the flawed ideology touted by this communist terrorist group,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.
Andolong also deplored the communist terrorist group’s claim to conduct an investigation over the incident.
“It is abhorrent that after taking responsibility for the deaths of Keith and Nolven Absalon, the CPP-NPA has the gall to pretend that they will conduct their own internal investigation, which, in reality, will never result in any kind of justice for the bereaved families,” Andolong said.
He also dismissed claims made by the communist terrorist group that the deaths caused by the APM attack in Masbate City were just a “tactical error” on their part.
“This tragedy is not caused by a mere ‘tactical error’ as they claim. The use of these anti-personnel mines that killed the Absalon cousins is actually a matter of procedure for these terrorists who are bent on inflicting death and damage to lives and property. The CPP-NPA’s persistent use of landmines is a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. It is also undeniable proof of the CTG’s utter disregard for the safety of innocent civilians,” he added. (with report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)