By Ben Cal, PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
The government reiterated on Saturday its demand for the New People’s Army (NPA) to surrender immediately the perpetrators of the recent grenade attack in Pacquibato District, Davao City that wounded 47 people, most of them children.
In a statement, the Government of the Philippines- Monitoring Committee (GPH-MC) said that “true and impartial justice demands that the NPA must surrender and subject the perpetrators of the grenade attack to the Philippine justice system.”
The NPA has publicly admitted that the attack was a mistake but said it paid P5,000 as indemnity to each of the 47 victims.
However, GPH-MC said that the indemnity “would not be sufficient to give the victims, many of whom were children, true justice.”
Earlier, Alex Padilla, chairman of the government peace panel negotiating with the communist rebels, decried the indemnification offer, saying it was a mere “stopgap and diversionary measure.”
“The NPA has long maintained that its forces are well-versed in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (HR-IHL),” the GPH-MC statement said.
“In signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL) through its political entity the National Democratic Front (NDF), the NPA has in effect held itself accountable to these standards,” GPH-MC said.
“If it were truly a champion of human rights and international humanitarian law, the NPA would readily surrender [the rebel] perpetrators of the Paquibato bombing and their other HR-IHL crimes to the Philippine justice system, which, however imperfect, remains a far better legal remedy to HR-IHL stakeholders and to the public than the ‘justice system’ of the NPA,” the statement added.
The NPA had earlier said they would deal with the matter in their own justice system, which, the GPH-MC said, “has never been transparent – open to the public, the media, or the government.”
Responding to the rebel group’s statement denouncing the government’s system of justice and accountability, the GPH-MC said, “The NPA’s refusal to submit themselves to the Philippine justice system does not change the fact that the group is not above international HR and IHL principles and laws, which they and their legal entity, the NDF, continually invoke when they allege violations” by the government’s security forces.
The GPH-MC is the counterpart of the National Democratic Front-Monitoring Committee. Both committees form the Joint Monitoring Committee, an entity that oversees and ensures compliance to CARHRIHL.
Padilla said the “reckless action raised by the NPA is simply not acceptable and such uncivilized and irresponsible act is a grave violation of human rights and will not lead to any meaningful resolution” to issues being raised by the communist rebels.
“If the group sincerely wants to put a solution to the country’s problems, the rightful way would be to go back to the negotiating table with the government and exhaust ways on how to work together in reaching just and lasting peace,” Padilla said.
It may be recalled that the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command of Southern Mindanao admitted its operatives threw a grenade at a fiesta gathering in the Paquibato District in Davao City last Sept. 1.
In a statement to media, the NPA claimed the grenade was intended for a nearby military detachment but was mistakenly lobbed into a civilian crowd gathered for a circus performance.
Forty-seven civilians, many of them children, were critically injured in the explosion.
The NPA grenade attack in Pacquibato District was one of the numerous attacks against civilians.
In fact, the military said the NPA has been using landmines in the insurgency war. The United Nations (UN) has banned the use of landmines because of their disastrous effects to civilians.