Sison held liable for Absalon death
By Catherine S. Valente / The Manila Times
Founder Jose Maria Sison
COMMUNIST Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison and other communist leaders must be held accountable for the death of football player Kieth Absalon and his cousin in the blast in Masbate City, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) said.
In a statement, NTF-Elcac spokesman Severo Catura said the leaders of the CPP, New People's Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front (NDF), especially Sison, were "personally accountable" under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and domestic law.
Absalon, his cousin Nolven Absalon and a 16-year-old nephew were biking in Barangay Anas, Masbate City on Sunday morning when a landmine exploded, killing the two men and injuring the boy.
"We refer to [the Fourth] Geneva Convention and additional Protocols covering civilian protection, and Republic Act 9851, or the 'Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law,'" said Catura, who is also the executive director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat.
Catura made the statement after the CPP-NPA took full responsibility for the death of Absalon and his cousin Nolven, expressed "deep remorse" over the tragedy and promised to indemnify the families they left behind.
Catura said the use of both manufactured and improvised anti-personnel mines (APMs), including improvised explosive devices, "are prohibited under said laws as they do not discriminate between innocent civilians and combatants."
He also noted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has recorded 141 incidents involving production, stockpiling, transporting and use of these banned weapons by the NPA, injuring or killing more than 30 civilians.
"Based on Intelligence information, the CPP-NPA-NDF has continuously produced, stockpiled, transported, and used these prohibited APMs with the blessing and approval of CPP leaders Sison, Luis Jalandoni, Juliet de Lima-Sison and other CTG leaders, making them fully responsible and liable for the deaths of dozens of civilians, including Kieth Absalon," Catura said.
"We are fortunate that we have a domestic law (RA 9851) that clearly effects our adherence to IHL. This law, signed in 2009, will weigh heavily on the charges against Sison et al. that will be filed in the country's appropriate courts to exact accountability," he added.
The NTF-Elcac spokesman also cited Section 10 of RA 9851, which provides that "a superior shall be criminally responsible as a principal for such crimes committed by subordinates under his/her effective command and control, or effective authority and control as the case may be, as a result of his/her failure to properly exercise control over such subordinates."
"It does not matter if Sison or other leaders gave the direct order to kill the Absalons or that they did not have actual knowledge of the attack; the law does not distinguish such. What is essential is that they will be held criminally responsible as principals because of their being known as leaders of the said terrorist group," he said.
As reaffirmed in RA 9851, Catura stressed that "it is the sole duty of the Philippine government under international treaties and conventions to punish such crimes to put an end to impunity involving terrorist perpetrators."
He said NTF-Elcac supported the work currently being undertaken by the AFP Center for the Law on Armed Conflict "to prepare all that is required to pursue this case to its successful completion."
"We thank the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC), the foremost monitor on the implementation of IHL in both international and non-international armed conflicts, for continuing to lend a helping hand to the Philippine government in this regard," he added.
Catura also said the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights "shall be informed of this tragic development, another example of how the human rights of our people are continually being abused by non-State armed groups and how the Philippine government is doing everything within the rule of law to bring the perpetrators to justice."
Surrender of suspects pushed
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) urged the communist insurgents to surrender their comrades.
"What can we expect from these rebels who are just pretending to be remorseful over their terrorist attack that killed Kieth and Nolven?" said Eleazar in a statement on Friday.
Eleazar said the CPP-NPA did not even bother to sanction its own men and added the inaction by the group would embolden its members to continue with the terror activities at the expense of the civilians.
The PNP chief promised the victims' families the police and military will give them justice for the senseless killing.
"No less than the arrest and conviction by a court of law of the perpetrators behind this violent and dastardly act can make up for the death of the two innocent men," Eleazar said.
The CHR said if the NPA was "serious and sincere," it should "identify all those responsible and surrender them to the lawful authorities to face justice within the court system."
"They should likewise be held accountable for all other crimes they have perpetrated in violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws since they began pursuing this armed conflict," it added.
WITH A REPORT FROM REINA TOLENTINO AND CHRISTIAN CROW MAGHANOY