How does the Philippine state violate International Humanitarian Law?

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International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a set of rules which seek to limit the effects of armed conflict and to reduce the human suffering caused by it. It protects civilians, service providers, and soldiers who have ceased fighting. In the Philippines, the state regularly commits violations of IHL, known as war crimes.

For decades, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has claimed that it is carrying out a counter-insurgency strategy to fight the armed communist movement in the country. In reality, the “counter-insurgency” campaigns under various presidents have targeted any and all forms of dissent against the GRP, including the campaigning of civilian activists and organizations.

These IHL violations are carried out by the various state and state-aligned machineries, as they implement the GRP’s war on dissent. These war crimes are carried out by soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and various other militia and vigilante groups.

The AFP indiscriminately drops bombs on peasant communities where they believe NPA units are operating. This violates Customary IHL Rule 13 on bombardment of areas containing civilians. A recent example is the AFP bombing of communities on the border of Abra and Ilocos Norte on April 2nd. Indiscriminate bombings force civilians to evacuate and put their lives at risk.

The AFP and PNP torture and murder captured NPA members. This violates Customary IHL Rule 47 on attacks against persons hors de combat, and various rules on humane treatment. On February 23, members of the AFP and PNP in Bohol abused and murdered five NPA members in front of local residents. The Bilar 5 had been captured earlier that day.

The Philippine state also disappears civilians and combatants against their will. This is a violation of Customary IHL Rule 98 on enforced disappearance or military kidnapping. Environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were disappeared by the military last year and interrogated for 8 days, before bravely revealing their abduction at a press conference organized by the government in October.

These are just some of the rules of IHL that are violated by the Philippine state, in addition to many others. These war crimes are the subject of the upcoming International People’s Tribunal which will put the Marcos and Duterte regimes on trial for war crimes. For more information about the International People’s Tribunal, visit www.peoplestribunal.net