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Govt: ‘UN report on NPA abuses boost anti-insurgency drive’

THE United Nations’ latest report on human rights which cited abuses committed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the government said, “boosts the Philippine government’s ongoing efforts through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to aggressively address this terror group.”

Undersecretary Severo Catura, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson on human rights, peace process and international engagement in a virtual forum with members of Filipino communities in Europe explained “these abuses were included in the Oral Report of the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Michelle Bachelet which was delivered on October 7 at the plenary of the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.” According to Catura, the failure of the government to act on these abuses would be a blatant disregard of its human rights obligations.

Bachelet revealed that her office “received reports of abuses by the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines, including the killing of civilians, recruitment of children and extortion.”

These come in the aftermath of 166 new cases of NPA violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that were submitted on October 19, 2021, by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Center for Law of Armed Conflict (AFP-CLOAC) to the Commission on Human Rights for validation.

The 166 new cases include incidents of recruitment and use of child combatants, destruction of privately-owned properties, use of anti-personnel mines (APM), and willful killings, Catura said.

A total of 1,672 incidents of NPA abuses from 2010 to this year have been unearthed and reported by the AFP-CLOAC. This number includes 544 cases of abduction of children who were forced into becoming child soldiers, the official added.

But these NPA abuses are not new, Catura said citing that in June 2020, in her report on the ‘Situation of Human Rights in the Philippines,’ Bachelet not only reported the same abuses as brought to her attention by individuals, communities, and human rights defenders, she also recalled that the “United Nations lists NPA among parties that commit grave violations affecting children in situations of armed conflict” based on findings by the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict that “verified the recruitment and use of children by NPA in combat or support roles.”

Bachelet’s 2020 report also cited “80 incidents allegedly perpetrated by NPA are being examined under Administrative Order No. 35.” The said presidential issuance signed in 2012 created an inter-agency committee to look into cases of alleged extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations to the right to life, liberty and security of persons.

The UN’s 2021 reiteration of these NPA abuses cannot be set aside because of its massive impact on the lives and security of the Filipino people, Catura said. More importantly, it affirms the work of the NTF-ELCAC in putting an end to these abuses.

These atrocities continue, Catura said, citing, that on June 3 this year, a passenger bus was torched by the NPA in North Cotabato. Three passengers were trapped and burned to death, while six sustained major burns.

Three days later, in Masbate province, a control-detonated anti-personnel mine planted by the NPA took the lives of 21-year-old national soccer team star Kieth Absalon and his cousin Nolven Absalon who were on a leisurely bike run. Nolven’s son who was with them, 16-year-old Chrisbin Daniel, suffered injuries.

Earlier this month, coinciding with the global observance of Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Month, a member of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur, Datu Boy Maca Astudillo, was killed by the NPA in front of his 11-year-old son. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) reported that since last year, the NPA has killed 22 IP members and elders for not supporting their cause.*

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