KIDAPAWAN CITY -- The head of the government panel talking peace with the National Democratic Front (NDF) criticized the rebels' move to indemnify victims of a blast in Paquibato District, saying it is "stopgap and diversionary."
Lawyer Alexander Padilla said the indemnification has clouded the issue of violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and existing Philippine laws.
Padilla's statement came after a group of alleged victims of the New People’s Army (NPA) atrocities in Mindanao gathered on Thursday in front of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City to protest what they called was a "measly" payment to each blast victim. Victims were paid at P5,000 each.
The Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) led by Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the UCCP acted as a broker in the settlement, according to reports from Colonel Lyndon Paniza of the 10th Infantry Division.
On Wednesday, at least 50 victims of the Paquibato blast received an "initial indemnification" from the NDF, with the help of religious institutions, lawyers, and journalists acting as third-party facilitators.
Aside from the indemnification, the victims received counseling and medical assistance from a team of volunteers, reports said.
In a statement issued to media on September 12, the regional council of the NDF-Southern Mindanao, through its spokesperson Rubi Del Mundo, said the indemnification is a unilateral exercise of “revolutionary political authority” by a "government of the working class and peasantry" that has its own legal and judicial system and rules in accordance with its political principles and circumstances.
Del Mundo also stated that the indemnification is in accordance with the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The rebel spokesperson said the CARHRIHL, signed by the GPH and the NDF on March 16, 1998 in The Hague, Netherlands, provides for the indemnification and compensation to parties affected by the armed conflict.
But Arthur Tariman, lead organizer of the group that held the protest rally on Thursday, said they want more than the payment.
Tariman said they demand that the NPA turns over to the authorities those responsible for the blast.
But Padilla said the continued refusal of the rebel group to allow the perpetrators to be subjected to due process "adds insult to injury."
Padilla has even derided the earlier statement of NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez that those responsible for the Paquibato attack would be dealt with based on the CPP-NPA's "revolutionary justice."
This "revolutionary justice," however, according to Padilla, has already been exposed as a "sham" by many because of its alleged disregard for the rule of law, including basic rights.
The GPH panel chair said there have been countless civilians who became victims or "collateral damage" in over four decades of the communist insurgency, yet, the indemnification issue has been raised only now.
"The demands of justice are predicated on a rule of law and cannot be met by one-off payments," Padilla said.
Despite the demand, the rebels are resolute on not yielding to the authorities, thus asserting their "belligerent status," citing as basis provisions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol I of 1977.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Davao denied Saturday having said in a radio interview that the indemnification given by the NPA to victims of the Paquibato grenade explosion is not enough.
CHR Director Alberto Sipaco was quoted in a television interview saying that "the amount is just equivalent to a piece of lechon".
"I never said that," Sipaco said.
NDF, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), on Wednesday handed out P5,000 to each of the 50 victims as "compensation" over injuries they sustained in the September 1 grenade attack.
Major Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, chief of the Army's 10th Infantry Division's Civil Military Operation Battalion (CMOBN), on Thursday also said the compensation will "never pay-off" the trauma and fear of the victims and other residents in Paquibato.
Obligado also compared the amount to one lechon and a sack of rice.
The NPA First Pulang Bagani Company earlier claimed responsibility for the incident.
In a press statement released on September 7, Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson for the NPA's Merardo Arce Command, said they are "standing firm for justice and truth and that their organization will conduct a disciplinary action on their members who were behind the incident." (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)
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