A MILITANT human rights group on Friday welcomed efforts to revitalize the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Members of the JMC, led by Efren Moncupa of the Philippine government and Fidel Agcaoili of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) held a joint meeting on the matter last September 20 at the Royal Norwegian Government Embassy in Makati City (Metro Manila).
Norway is brokering the peace talks in Oslo between the Duterte administration and the communist NDFP.
Karapatan said in a statement that legal consultants of the NDFP, staff members of the Joint Secretariat and independent observers, including recently designated independent observer Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, also attended the meeting.
“After years of attempts by the Arroyo and Aquino regimes to derail the work of the JMC, all efforts to ensure and pave the way for the full operationalization of its work and mandate to receive and investigate complaints on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are very welcome,” Palabay said in the statement.
Karapatan also called on the Philippine government to investigate 4,569 complaints that were filed at the Philippine-nominated section of the Joint Secretariat from June 4, 2004 to March 13, 2014.
Most of the complaints were filed by the human rights group, its member organizations and victims of rights abuses.
Among the complaints filed were those by relatives of victims of human rights and international humanitarian law violations in connection with operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Lacub, Abra on September 4-5, 2014.
In these military operations, seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA)–Pedring Banggao, Robert Beyao, Arnold Jaramillo, Brandon Magranga, Recca Noelle Monte, Robert Perez and Ricardo Reyes—were killed by soldiers from the 41st Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army.
Karapatan said in the statement that the retrieved bodies of the slain NPA members bore signs of possible violations of the International Humanitarian Law.
It added that two civilians, engineer Fidela Salvador of the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services, who was on a monitoring visit for various socio-economic projects, and Lacub resident Noel Viste were also killed.
The military also indiscriminately fired upon civilians and used them as human shields and guides in the conduct of their operations, Palabay said in the statement.
“In the midst of these violations, medals and commendations were accorded by the AFP to 2nd Lt. Joe Mari Landicho and Capt. Deo Martinez, head of operating troops and operations officer of the 41st IB. It is appalling how such violations were encouraged and even applauded,” she added.
The JMC will hold another meeting in Oslo in the next round of the formal peace talks under the Duterte administration.