Govt peace panel wants justice for slain policemen

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EVEN the government peace panel tasked to talk peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) has urged government forces to pursue justice for the policemen who were killed by the rebels in Cagayan province on Monday.

“We grieve for the brave police officers and the other victims of this unconscionable crime and call on our government to pursue justice for those who have fallen victim to this senseless violence,” the panel said in a statement released to the media on Tuesday.

While it vowed to continue “seeking avenues for talking peace” with the rebel groups, the panel denounced the violation of an international law against the use of landmines.

It said that the use by the NPA of landmines violated the Ottawa Treaty, formally known as the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.”

“We maintain that the use of landmines by the NPA is a gross violation of Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity as well as the Ottawa Protocol banning the use of landmines,” the peace panel said.

“By its insistence on using landmines and its insistence on continuing a regime of violence instead of talking peace, the NPA turns a blind eye to the clamor of our people for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict,” it added.

Civil society participation
The peace panel also called on civil society organizations (CSO) and other groups to reject the NPA’s brand of violence.

“We call on CSOs [civil society organizations], the churches and other peace stakeholders to say No to the CPP-NPA’s violent acts,” it said.

It stressed that the government panel, despite a snag in the peace negotiations, will continue seeking avenues for talking peace that will result in the decrease or prevention of NPA atrocities.

The treaty, which became a binding international law on March 1, 1999, was signed and ratified by 161 state-parties, including the Philippines. This bans anti-personnel mines, which it defines as “designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.”

“Mines designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle as opposed to a person, that are equipped with anti-handling devices, are not considered anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped,” the treaty added.

The panel said the rebels used a 25-meter-long detonation cord to set off the bomb as the police truck came into view. Two other bombs did not explode, the police said.

Savagery
Interior and Local Government Secretary Mnauel “Mar” Roxas also on Tuesday strongly condemned the attack that also left seven wounded

.“It is a kind of savagery that has no place in our society,” Roxas said.

Police recorded no single firefight or violent incident between the police and the rebels for the past six months, when the Special Action Force was redeployed to the province from another assignment.

The policemen were not on patrol operations when they were ambushed, Roxas said.

“This makes the attack all the more shocking and senseless since it was premeditated and carried out without provocation,” he pointed out.

Roxas called the police officers “heroes of our people.”

Benefits
Roxas promised the quick turnover of all death benefits to the families of those killed.

Each family will receive P250,000 from the President’s Social Fund, from P141,000 up to P181,000 each from the PNP, burial benefits of no less than P50,000 each and gratuity of at least P203,000 each from the National Police Commmission.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo said between P1.5 million and P2 million will go to each family of the eight slain policemen on top of an estimated P15,000 monthly lifetime pension from the PNP and roughly the same amount for five years from the Napolcom.

Roxas also promised full medical benefits of P170,00 each to the seven wounded.

Intercepted
Meanwhile, government forces intercepted six anti-tank improvised explosive devices (IED) from a suspected rebel courier during a security operation in Davao City.

Lt. Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, commanding officer of the 69th Infantry Battalion, on Tuesday said Joey Atienza, 33, was arrested at a checkpoint in Barangay Mabuhay, Paquibato, District, Davao City.

Pasaporte said the recovery of the explosive devices was a clear indication that the rebels were planning terror attacks against government forces and civilians in the area.

A recent study by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) showed that the NPA has perpetrated a total of 107 landmining incidents and use of other IEDs over the last 10 years, which resulted in the death of 113 people and wounding of 22 others.

Region 11 tops the list with 38 incidents, mostly in Davao del Sur province, followed by the CARAGA region with 20 recorded incidents, particularly in Surigao del Sur province.

It said that it was also in Region 11 and in CARAGA, considered as hotbeds of insurgency, where government forces recovered the most number of landmines and IEDs.

Shift
The AFP said the increasing trend on the use of IEDs by the NPA was a shift in strategy brought about by the group’s dwindling number and lack of firearms and ammunition.

It added that the NPA’s use of landmines and IED is part of its strategy of intensifying their tactical offensives to sow fear among innocent civilians and force business owners and private individuals to give in to their extortion demands.

According to the AFP’s Human Rights Office (HRO), the NPA is criminally liable under Republic Act 9851 or the new “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity which was signed into law in 2009.

The AFPHRO explained that IEDs are banned because it causes inhumane effects on those killed and wounded, causing injuries to civilians, including women and children, and all others within its range.

Earlier, members of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army led by Lt. Col, Reuben Basio found IED materials inside a cave at Sito Kalinawan, Barangay Taocangan, Man-ay, Davao Oriental province.

In his report to the AFP high command, Basio said the cave was being used by the rebels as factory of explosive devices.

The AFP, through the peace negotiating panel, has filed a complaint against the NPA’s continued use of IEDs and landmines in its operations.

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