MANILA, Philippines — The proper legal framework against communist rebels behind the Masbate explosion is by enforcing a local law that penalizes crimes against humanity, a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) official said.
DILG spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya on Friday disputed the Makabayan bloc’s claim that cases can be filed through the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) in light of the New People’s Army (NPA) military action that claimed the lives of Far Eastern University football player Kieth Absalon and trade unionist Nolven Absalon.
JMC is a government body assigned to look into rights abuses of both state forces and communist rebels, but which has already been disbanded after peace negotiations between the two parties fizzled out.
Malaya said that even if the JMC existed, it would have no capacity to conduct an investigation, much less, prosecute parties. Thus, he said the Makabayan lawmakers should stop misleading the Absalons about going to the JMC to file cases against the NPA rebels.
“The JMC does not exist. Period. And even if it did, it had no investigative nor prosecutorial powers. It can only request for investigation to the concerned party,” he said in a statement.
Malaya further said that Republic Act 9851, a law that penalizes crimes against humanity, covers the incident.
“RA 9851 is the correct legal platform where the families of victims and our government can assert and exact accountability and get justice. CARHRIHL is just an agreement; this is a law… Obvious naman kung alin ang mas mabigat (It is obvious which bears more weight),” he claimed.
On June 5, the Absalon cousins died after an anti-personnel land mine planted by NPA rebels went off, while the two including Nolven’s 16-year-old son were cycling in Masbate City’s Barangay Anas. The minor survived the incident, but obtained several injuries.
A day before the Communist Party of the Philippines had admitted that the NPA was responsible for the deaths, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said in a statement that the JMC must probe the incident.
“If revolutionary forces are indeed behind the deployment of the alleged IED, then bringing a case before the JMC would be the best way to make them accountable,” Gaite explained. “Both government and rebel forces are bound by this agreement on human rights and this mechanism under CARHRIHL is designed exactly to address such incidents.”
However, Malaya said that since CPP-NPA does not respect the CARHRIHL, it cannot be used for them.
“The CPP/NPA does not respect CARHRIHL because it uses both command-donated and contact-detonated landmines as offensive weapons. CARHRIHL clearly prohibits the use of land mines against people especially civilians,” he said.
“And yet the Makabayan bloc wants the (Absalon) family to use this very same agreement to bring the perpetrators to justice. There is no rhyme nor logic,” he added.
NPA’s action drew widespread criticism as different sectors stressed that the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) has long banned the use of anti-personnel land mines which cannot distinguish between combatant and non-combatant.
Under R.A. No. 9851, individuals who would be found guilty of committing acts that are prohibited under the International Humanitarian Law would suffer a penalty of reclusion temporal or prison time from twelve years and one day up to twenty years.
A fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 may also be required.
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