By Ben Cal, PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
Alexander Padilla, chair of the government peace panel negotiating with the communist rebels, Saturday decried as “stopgap and diversionary” the offer by the New People’s Army (NPA) of P5,000 each as indemnification to the victims of the deadly grenade attack by the rebel forces in Davao City last Sept. 1.
At least 48 civilians were wounded in the blast.
In a press statement, Padilla said that the refusal of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) “to turn over the perpetrators of the attack to the authorities and be subject to due process ‘adds insult to injury.’”
Padilla dubbed the P5,000 payment offered by the NPA to the victims of the grenade attack as a “stopgap and clouding the issue of violation of international humanitarian law and Philippine law.”
“The NPA’s Merardo Arce Command belatedly owned up to the attack, and NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said those responsible will be dealt with according to the CPP-NPA’s ‘revolutionary justice,’” Padilla pointed out.
But he said this so-called “revolutionary justice” stance of the NPA has been exposed as a “sham” by many, including United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in a report in 2008 “without regard to the rule of law, including basic rights (e.g. the right to counsel, to evidence).”
Padilla said “that there have been countless civilian victims of collateral damage in over four decades of the communist insurgency — “why has indemnification been raised only now?”
“For as long as the CPP-NPA pursues armed struggle as the primary means to achieve its goals,” Padilla said, “there will continue to be civilians caught in the crossfire. Will they join the ranks of tens of thousands of unnamed and uncompensated civilian victims?”
“Such issues as the use of landmines and child soldiers have been raised by the Government Peace Panel in on-and-off talks with its CPP-NPA-NDF counterparts,” he added.
“The demands of justice are predicated on a rule of law and cannot be met by one-off payment. The demands of peace must be negotiated peacefully at the table and not through gunfire and the torching of establishments,” he said.
Padilla underscored President Benigno S. Aquino III’s unilateral declaration of a ceasefire by government marking the United Nations celebration of International Day of Peace Friday.
It may be recalled that following the unprovoked attack, the Armed Forces of the Philippines challenged the NPA to surrender those responsible for the grenade attack.
“There should be culpability. They should be held responsible for their actions in accordance with due process of law, meaning they should be jailed. We hope the armed group will bring to the bars of justice those responsible,” said Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, AFP Human Rights chief.
A group of NPA rebels belonging to the Medardo Arce Command crept towards an Army unit guarding a carnival in Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District at around 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 1 and lobbed a grenade.
But the grenade hit a tarpaulin and bounced off and exploded at a group of civilians, wounding 48, including some children.
The NPA issued an “apology” on what happened. But Tutaan said: “Apology cannot mitigate the seeming impunity by the perpetrators. I am challenging them (to turn over the perpetrators). Sorry is not enough. We have a justice system. They committed a crime and a violation.”
In 2010, the NPA launched four similar attacks victimizing civilians.
Tutaan said that non-combatants and the civilian populace should be spared from attacks.