* Statement of the Asia Pacific Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
The Asia Pacific Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (APCHRP) strongly condemns the bombing and shelling by four jet fighter planes of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in indigenous people’s communities in Malibcong, Abra as part of its military campaign against the New People’s Army.
On March 16, AFP’s 24th IBPA (short for Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army) dropped at least 14 bombs in Malibcong, Abra that affected at least 56 families, including 200 children, which greatly alarmed human rights justice and peace advocates, church people and ecumenical organizations at the national and regional level. The aerial strikes caused forest fires in the barangays (villages) of Lat-ey and Bangilo, damaged fields, endangered civilians and forced schools to suspend classes.
While the AFP denies the bombings and insists that the NPA caused the forest fires, reports from the ground by the quick reaction team of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the villagers themselves revealed that four fighter jets of the AFP were seen circling the communities and subsequently dropping the bombs.
These abhorrent acts show the complete disregard of the Philippine military for the life and livelihood of civilians especially poor, peasants and indigenous peoples in the countryside. President Duterte’s declaration of temporary termination of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in February to force the revolutionary forces to capitulate is now wreaking havoc with impunity on the people.
When will the Duterte government learn that all-out war solves nothing but instead only heightens the resolve of the poor, deprived and oppressed Filipinos to further advance the struggle for justice, human rights and lasting peace?
The APCHRP, a regional support group for human right in the Philippines, is calling on the Duterte government to immediately stop the bombing of civilian communities in Abra. It should also end its all-out war policy, which gains nothing but intensify state terror attacks among the people.
The Filipino people’s demand for just and lasting peace – that will ensure land, livelihood and foods at their table – are compelling reasons to continue the peace talks with the hopes of addressing the root causes of poverty, strife and forced migration in their country.