Reds can never claim belligerent status: AFP official

By Priam Nepomuceno / Philippine News Agency

Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Operations (Screengrab)

MANILA – The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is all about protecting civilians during armed conflict and will not grant a status of belligerency to the communist terrorists, a ranking military official said.


Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Operations, during the June 28 episode of "Tagged: Debunking Lies by Telling the Truth", was responding to questions on whether the series of communist terrorist attacks nationwide is being done to create an impression of civil war and thus, give them a status of belligerency.


"Iyong isyu ng status of belligerency ay matagal ng gustong impluwensiyahan ng mga tagapagsalita, ng mga pamunuan ng CPP-NPA-NDF, ang behavior natin, behavior nating lahat, behavior ng gobyerno, behavior ng taumbayan para hindi natin gamitin ang IHL laban sa kanila. Ginawan nila ng isang kaisipan na ang IHL ay patungkol sa belligerency; iyon po ay isang kasinungalingan (The leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic and its spokesperson has been wanting for so long to influence this issue of the status of belligerency as to influence our behavior, the behavior of the government, behavior of the public so that IHL cannot be used against them. They made it appear that IHL is all about belligerency; that is a big lie)," de Leon said.


De Leon added that when the IHL was introduced, its spirit and the primary object was to protect civilians as stated in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.


This law offers international minimum protection to persons taking no active part in hostilities, including members of armed forces in certain situations specifically stated in the article which is applicable in cases of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the contracting parties to the 1949 Conventions.


Humane and non-discriminatory treatment are two important protections offered under this provision.


"Kaya po nakalagay doon sa Common Article 3 ng Geneva Convention, sinasabi po doon na, it will not change the political status of the parties to the conflict, the mere application of the law will not change the political status. Ito po, the application of the provision shall not affect the legal status of the party to the conflict. (It is stated in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention that it will not change the political status of the parties in the conflict, the mere application of the law will change the political status. The application of the provision shall not affect the legal status of the party to the conflict)," he said.


The IHL, he added, is all about protecting civilians from armed conflict and protecting the properties of these individuals from being destroyed.


"Sa ilalim po noong Republic Act 9851, nakalagay din po doon, Section 2, Article Letter G, the state or meaning the Philippines recognizes that the application of the provisions of the law shall not affect the legal status of the party to the conflict, nor give an implied recognition of the status of belligerency. Very clear po iyan. Nakalagay po iyan sa batas (Under Republic Act 9851, Section 2, Article Letter G, the state or meaning the Philippines recognizes that the applications of the provisions of the law shall not affect the legal status of the party to the conflict, nor give an implied recognition of the status of belligerency, that is very clear, it is stated in the law)," he said.


Republic Act 9851 is also known as "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".


"So, ang sinusulong lamang po natin ay huwag idamay ang civilian, na kapag idinamay ninyo, mayroon kayong criminal liability. At sino ang may criminal liability? Iyong mismong gumawa ng krimen at iyong pamunuan na nag-uutos at nagto-tolerate sa kanilang mga tagapasunod sa paggawa ng krimen na iyong pagpatay sa civilian, pagsira ng property ng civilian, pag-atake sa mga komunidad na non-dependent, pagpatay doon sa mga persons deprived of liberty, meaning iyong tinalian, ginapos, kinulong, hindi iyan prisoner-of-war (So what we are pushing for is that they do not target civilians and that if they do, they will have criminal liability. And who will have criminal liability? They are the ones who committed the crime, and the leadership who ordered and tolerated it among their followers and members who kill civilians, destroy civilian property, attacked communities of non-dependent, killed persons deprived of liberty, meaning those persons tied up and kept locked, those are not prisoners-of-war)," de Leon said.


Based on IHL, he added, a non-state armed group cannot declare that they have taken prisoners of war. He said neither the United Nations will declare the CPP-NPA belligerent.


"Iyon pong IHL ay pabor sa mga estadong katulad ng ating bansa, tayo po ay state, pabor po ang IHL. Nakalagay po doon, binibigyan ng precedence and due respect ng Geneva Convention ang domestic law ng ating bansa. So, wala pong dapat katakutan, hindi belligerency ang usapin sa IHL, at ang belligerency po, iyan po recognition na ibinibigay ng isang bansa, hindi po natin bibigyan ng recognition na idedeklara o ikaw ay NPA-CPP, belligerent ka na. Hindi po tayo magde-declare. Ang United Nation hindi rin po iyan magde-declare na, ‘oh, ikaw CPP-NPA, belligerent ka na’ (IHL favors states like our country. It is stated there that the Geneva Convention gives precedence and respects the domestic laws of our country. So there is nothing to be afraid of, belligerency is not a feature of IHL, and belligerency is a recognition given to a state. We will never just declare the (CPP-NPA) a belligerent. We will never declare that and the United Nations will never declare the CPP-NPA a belligerent)," he said.


The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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