By SID NATIVIDAD
MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) once filed a case against the Abu Sayyaf back in 2007 for the alleged decapitation of slain Marines in Basilan. Five years later, another complaint has been filed not by the AFP but against them, allegedly regarding a similar atrocity, this time committed against slain New People’s Army (NPA) fighters from Abra and Quezon provinces.
On October 17, 2012, relatives of the slain NPA guerrillas arrived at the national office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to file a complaint regarding the desecration of the bodies of eight NPA guerrillas in Tineg, Abra and 11 in San Narciso, Quezon, citing the AFP’s violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which the Government of the Philippines (GPH) signed with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines).
Members of human rights group Karapatan and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) along with the victims’ families sought an audience with Commissioner Jose Mamauag of CHR. The families of the victims demanded for an immediate investigation, and appropriate sanctions be made against those who will be found guilty of violating the CARHRIHL, according to Karapatan.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL was the first agreement on the substantive agenda in the peace talks, which was signed by the GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the NDFP (National Democratic Front) peace talks. Many provisions of CARHRIHL is supported by Republic Act 9851 or An Act Defining And Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide And Other Crimes Against Humanity, Organizing Jurisdiction, Designating Special Courts, And For Related Purposes, as such, it is mandatory for both state and non-state armed groups to observe the standards of the IHL, and the perpetrators whether government or non-government may be charged.
Killed in military encounters
A year ago, on October 10, 2011, eight NPA fighters in Tineg Abra were killed in a raid conducted by the AFP’s 503rd Brigade and the 41st IB. In accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the remains of those killed in battle are to be collected and given proper burial.
Allegedly, the AFP defiled the bodies of the eight NPA guerrillas killed in the raid.
A similar incident also happened three months ago, on June 30. Eleven NPA guerrillas were reportedly killed in another military encounter at San Narciso, Quezon Province. Soldiers from the 74th Infantry Battalion reportedly desecrated the bodies of the 11 guerrillas killed and denied the request of the families to give them a proper burial.
Harassing the relatives
Leslie Ann Olvinar, whose parents were among the 11 guerrillas whose bodies were desecrated, told in detail the atrocities committed against her parents at sitio Sinagtala, barangay White Cliff, San Narciso, Quezon.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, she said, the body of her father Ka Amir was delivered to them with the back of his head shattered but his face intact. The autopsy concluded that, most probably, the barrel of a gun was shoved into his mouth before it was fired by one of the soldiers.
She said her mother Ka Cristy’s body was torn open from the chest all the way down to the belly, spilling out her intestines.
She added that Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) of the Philippine National Police did not even ask permission from the families of the slain guerrillas before conducting the autopsy and initially denied their request to claim the corpses even though they introduced themselves as family members. She said the AFP wanted to place the bodies of the slain guerrillas on a dump truck and unload the corpses somewhere.
Olvinar also mentioned, in the complaint they filed, that, until now, they would see suspicious looking men roaming around the vicinity of their house in Gumaca, a small sitio in Quezon province. Olvinar said she also received text messages from an unknown person telling her that if she would stop seeking for justice for her parents, she and her sibling would be given scholarships.
Marcelo Masadao, a nephew of Reynaldo “Ka Kris” Masadao, one of the eight guerrillas who were slain at Tineg, Abra, expressed his disappointment on the progress of the complaint they filed before the regional office of the CHR. He said, in an interview with Bulatlat.com, that “The meeting with Commissioner Jose Mamauag was not our first attempt at filing a complaint against the violation. Initially we brought our case to the CHR in the Cordillera Administrative Region, but no investigation was ever conducted.”
Jude Baggo, secretary general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said that after the incident in Tineg, the families were threatened by suspected military agents. Baggo added that the relatives of the slain NPA guerrillas live in different places and it took time before they could consult them.
According to the relatives, the CHR claimed that it was difficult to conduct an investigation due to the fact that both areas in which the violations were committed are heavily militarized up to this day. Some of the victims’ families said they were offered bribes and experienced harassment from the AFP and unknown parties to instill fear among them and to silence them.
Audrey Beltran, deputy secretary general of CHRA, said the CHR-Cordillera did not initiate any investigation despite the fact that the incident was reported in the news.
Rjei Manalo, secretary general of Gabriela-Southern Tagalog, said the CHR-Region 4 already issued a statement “absolving the military of any violations of the IHL.” Mamauag then called up the CHR Region 4 and asked for a copy of the report, which stated that there was no desecration of remains.
CHR Commissioner Mamauag promised to conduct a thorough and independent investigation to resolve the case. “We will investigate on the hows and whys,” he added.
According to Karapatan, the identified perpetrators of the CARHRIHL violations at Tineg, Abra incident were Lt. Jeson Capoquian of the 41st IBPA who led the assault and all the other unnamed soldiers attached to the 41st IBPA of the 503rd Brigade, Col. Noel Baluyan, commanding officer of the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and Col. Eliseo Posadas, commanding officer of the 503rd Brigade. No names have been identified in the San Narciso, Quezon incident, but allegedly they are soldiers under the 74th IBPA based in Mulanay, Quezon.
Karapatan – Southern Tagalog and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance stated that they are in full support of the families of the slain guerillas, and condemned the alleged atrocities of the AFP and the violations they committed against the CARHRIHL.
They also called on President Benigno Aquino III to resume the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and for his government and the AFP to adhere to and respect the CARHRIHL.