CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The human rights group Karapatan rebuffed a general’s challenge to investigate alleged “extrajudicial killings” against state personnel made by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Bukidnon.
The group declined the challenge, saying that the mandate of Karapatan is to investigate abuses carried out by agents of the government including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The challenge was raised by 403rd Brigade Commander Brigadier General Edgardo de Leon, after army personnel discovered “mass graves” and recovered four bodies in various parts in Bukidnon on August 22.
Three bodies were recovered in Barangay Digongan in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, and were identified as retired police officer Joel Rey Galendez, Army Sergeant Reynante España, and tribal leader Dionisio Havana.
The three were alleged be taken by NPA fighters who set up a road blockade in Barangay Kalagangan, San Fernando, on Aug. 22, 2017, according to Army reports.
Another body was exhumed in a grave site in Barangay Matupi in San Fernando town in Bukidnon, and was identified as Remon Manoos, 24, single, a resident of Barangay Balagunan, Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte.
Manoos, police said, was a former communist rebel who was executed by his comrades on Jan. 28, 2019, when it was found out that he surrendered to the government.
“The exhumed cadavers and the revelation of the eyewitnesses prove that the NPAs are the one perpetrating extra-judicial killings (EJK), contrary to allegations by militant groups,” de Leon said.
“I call on [Karapatan], the self-declared watchdog of [International Humanitarian Law], to investigate this case and release its findings to the public,” de Leon challenged the group.
The army commander claimed the NPA killed non-combatants including Havana, a violation of the IHL.
“Moreover, the datu [Havana], who was a civilian, should not have been held captive because he has no direct participation in the armed conflict,” he said, adding that the “NPAs are really terrorists, worthy of public condemnation and be declared by communities as ‘[personae non gratae].’”
But Karapatan national secretary-general Cristina Palabay said in a statement that their mandate is to monitor human rights violations of the state security fores.
“Time and again, we have repeated the core of our mandate, which is to monitor, document, and seek accountability for State-perpetrated human rights violations,” Palabay said.
Palabay explained why they focus on the military and police. “We again remind them that the government is the primary duty bearer in upholding and protecting human rights.”
Karapatan pointed out that it is their concern that the AFP have been held accountable for extrajudicial killings especially in Mindanao under Martial Law.
“As we condemn the continued killing of individuals critical of the government, we likewise remind the Duterte government — alongside its bloodthirsty state forces — that they have the foremost duty to uphold and protect human rights,” Palabay said.
“They (government) have billions at their disposal and yet, these are used to discretionary funds and policies that tear communities apart, sanction and reward killings, worsen impunity, and further violate people’s rights,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) issued a statement on August 24, denying any hand in the AFP’s claim that they executed the four people.
“The stories weaved by the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] around the so-called ‘mass graves’ are faulty at best. The more details the AFP reveals, the more incredulous the critical observer becomes,” their statement said. (davaotoday.com)