The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is being asked to explain reports of summary executions of a number of suspected communist leaders and guerrillas. The demand has been raised for possible violations of international humanitarian law and protocols of war.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
In three separate incidents in the last three weeks, a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was abducted; a New People’s Army (NPA) leader was summarily executed; and a mentally-impaired son of a farmer was allegedly salvaged by soldiers after suffering setbacks from firefights with the NPA.
In statements send to the media, the CPP has denounced these acts as violations of international humanitarian law and the Geneva protocol of war.
Leo Velasco, an acknowledged CPP leader and consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for the peace negotiations with the government, was reportedly abducted by government agents on Feb. 19 in Cagayan de Oro, the city capital of the province of Misamis Oriental, southern Philippines.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have earlier denied the report.
“You are a bunch of liars,” CPP spokesperson Rogelio “Ka Roger” Rosal said in a statement referring to the government agents. He said only the Macapagal-Arroyo administration was running after Velasco.
Witnesses said Velasco was abducted in “broad daylight and in full public view” at around 10:30 a.m. by three armed men who introduced themselves as government agents, a CPP statement said. Added to this, witnesses said one of the armed men wore a vest with the insignia of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
Velasco was being tagged by military intelligence agents as a member of the team that carried out the “punishment” on Jan. 23, 2003 to Romulo Kintanar, erstwhile chief of staff of the NPA who, underground reports said, was found guilty of counter-revolutionary acts.
In February 2006, the military said Velasco was one of the CPP leaders who met with 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan in Batangas to plot a civilian-backed coup against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The missing CPP leader was identified in a powerpoint presentation by the Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) sometime in March 2006 because of his supposed involvement in the coup plot. His old picture in sepia was placed side-by-side with another alleged CPP leader, Prudencio Calubid, who was also abducted allegedly by soldiers on June 27, 2006 in Camarines Sur, south of Manila. Calubid and three of his companions have been reported missing.
Another alleged NPA member, Philip Limjoco, was also abducted May 8, 2006 in Dau, Pampanga.
Velasco, Calubid and Limjoco are numbers 20, 22, and 23 in the Department of Justice (DoJ) list of 51 individuals charged with rebellion due to their alleged involvement in the failed coup in February 2006. They are all respondents in Criminal Case No. 2006-994.
Another NDFP consultant, Jose Calubad, and NDFP staff, Leopoldo Ancheta, were abducted in separate occasions in 2006. Calubad’s son, Gabriel, was abducted together with his father. Families of Calubid, Calubad, Limjoco and Ancheta have filed petitions for habeas corpus before the Supreme Court but the military has repeatedly denied that the communist leaders are in their custody. No case has been solved thus far.
In a statement released to media on March 8, NDF-Eastern Visayas accused the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IB PA) and the 8th Internal Security Unit-Internal Security Group (ISU-ISG) for the “treacherous murder” of a suspected NPA leader in the region, Antonio Ramos, on Feb. 26 in Jaro, province of Leyte.
NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago Salas said in the statement that Ramos was “captured alive past 7 a.m. at a military checkpoint, but was killed about two hours later on the contrived story that he attempted to seize a gun from his custodians while on their way to the 19th IB headquarters in the town of Kananga, Leyte.”
Salas charged that Ramos was summarily executed in the same way as Bibiano Rentillosa, another NPA leader in the region, last Sept. 11, 2006 in the same town.
Meanwhile, a separate statement released by the Alejandro Lanaja Command of the NPA in southern Mindanao said soldiers of the 28th Infantry Battalion-1001st Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command, together with elements of the paramilitary “tribal force” organized by the AFP summarily executed a mentally-impaired son of a farmer in Barangay (village) Banglasan, Montevista, Compostela Valley province on March 4.
The victim, 21-year old Raul Adlawan, was mentally-impaired the statement said.
Witnesses said Adlawan was “foraging for edible shells” when the soldiers engaged a group of NPA guerillas in a firefight. The clash killed two government agents and wounded three others. No casualties were report on the NPA said.
Adlawan failed to return that night, witnesses further said. His bullet-riddled body was found by relatives and neighbors only on March 7.
The CPP has denounced these acts as clear violations of international covenants on human rights and articles of war to which the Philippine government is a signatory.
Rosal has called on the military to immediately surface Velasco and all other CPP leaders and NDFP consultants who have been recently abducted by state security agents in separate incidents around the country.
The CPP spokesman also called on the Macapagal-Arroyo government to respect the victims’ rights under “the pertinent provisions of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols, as well as the GRP-NDFP agreements including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). He demanded that they be immediately surfaced and released.”
As accredited consultants to the peace negotiations, they are guaranteed immunity from arrest under the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), he said. (Bulatlat.com)