• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

From Abra to Mamasapano:Wars have limits, respect life and uphold International Humanitarian Law

February 13, 2015

Few days ago, an uploaded six-minute video in the internet showing a member of the PNP-SAF being shot at close range is totally appalling and nauseating to watch. Even in times of war, life is not diminished. International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or the rules of war strictly prohibits inflicting any forms of cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment and the desecration of remains against any combatants especially those who are captured, wounded, and sick. In fact, IHL dictates that all necessary actions should be made by any party involved in the armed conflict to save lives of the wounded and sick in times of wars.

Wars have limits. Parties to the IHL are obligated to adhere and follow all war protocols to lessen excesses and human suffering. The repeated or multiple close-range shooting as shown in the video is not merely a grave IHL violation. This is murder at its highest form and these actions should have no space in our society.

The Mamasapano tragedy compels us to realize that there is a raging civil war in the Philippines; between the GPH and the NDFP; and the GPH and the MILF. In times of wars, life is the ultimate sacrifice on all parties; GPH state security forces; New People’s Army (NPA); and MILF fighters. And since there is a civil war, it is therefore important to understand and push for the respect and recognition of IHL and similar instruments to lessen the impacts of wars to combatants, civilians and communities.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) feels the same pain and anguish of the families of the PNP-SAF specially those shown in the video being shot and treated inhumanely. We fully understand the statement of “overkill” even used by PNP Chief Leonardo Espina to describe the manner of deaths of some members of the 44 PNP-SAF killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Recently, this has been our outcry and continues to the present. In September 2014, seven members of the NPA and two civilians were killed during the 5th IDPA led military operation in Lacub, Abra. In wars, civilians are protected persons and not targets for attack. Noel Viste, a resident of Lacub and a member of local CPA chapter was coerced by the 41st IBPA to act as their human shield. When recovered, his skull was shattered. On the other hand, Engr. Fidela Salvador, who was conducting project monitoring in the area, also suffered multiple gunshot wounds, bone fractures and bore signs of torture.

Recca Noelle Monte, an NPA fighter, was killed without any gunshot wound, her skull was crushed and knees were dislocated. She also bore signs of severe torture before she died. NPA fighter Arnold Jaramillo was also riddled with bullets and bore signs of torture. These are more than an issue of “overkill”. This is a crime against humanity perpetrated by the 41st IBPA and other military elements under the 5th IDPA.

From Mamasapano to the Cordilleras, we should rage against these grave violations. The inclusion of at least five civilians including a child killed during the operation supposedly to arrest Marwan and Usman is a breach to the rules of war. We should value life regardless of ideological, political and religious beliefs. Cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment; desecration of the dead; and “overkill” should not be used a weapon against combatants waging wars. Civilians should be spared as targets during operations. The rules of war should be strictly followed by parties engaging wars. Perpetrators of IHL violations should be sanctioned and punished. ***

Reference: Jude Baggo, Public Information Officer