WHILE the country battles coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), internal armed conflict continues to beleaguer the Philippines our country as the threat posed by local communists persists.
Thus, said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in his statement read at a webinar on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) on August 20, in observance of IHL Day.
“The trying times wrought by the pandemic have not deterred extortions, harassments, ambuscades, and killings by terrorists, thereby derailing the effective delivery of relief goods and other basic services to far-flung communities by our national and local governments, with the assistance of our men and women in uniform,” Medialdea said in his statement.
Specific acts of terrorism, he said, have been reported to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, at a time when the government aggressively responds to contain the spread of an invisible enemy and mitigate its impact on Filipinos and the economy.
“The list of incidents is long, but each province that suffered these terrorist acts is worth mentioning. Atrocities occurred in the provinces of Abra, !locos Sur, Tarlac, Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, Palawan, Occidental Mindoro, Masbate, and Albay in Luzon; Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Iloilo, and Bohol in the Visayas; and Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Davao de! Sur, Davao de Oro, Davao de! N01ie, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, North Cotabato, and South Cotabato in Mindanao,” Medialdea added.
As he lamented that in every instance, the wound was inflicted on the whole country, he vowed that these acts will not remain unaddressed as government forces stay focused on their mission to protect national security.
“The work will always be done in full cognizance of IHL rules that respect the right to life and the freedom from violence not only of State enemies wounded in battle or rendered out-of-combat but more importantly, of innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire and whose communities are in need of economic succor in this time of the pandemic,” he said during the webinar sponsored by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Human Rights Office in partnership with non-government organization Sulong PEACE and attended by senior commanders and officials, human rights officers from all the major AFP services and commands, among others.
The observance of IHL Day, which actually falls on Aug. 12, was moved to Aug. 20 by the Department of National Defense that chairs the IHL Ad Hoc Committee. The Department of Foreign Affairs alternately co-chairs the observance on a yearly basis, pursuant to Executive Order 134 issued in 1999.
The committee is also composed of representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, AFP, Philippine National Police, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, International Committee of the Red Cross in Manila, Philippine Red Cross, and Commission on Human Rights.