Indiscriminate aerial bombing in Abra, Philippines, violates International Humanitarian Law

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Press Statement
April 8, 2024

On April 2, 2024, the Philippine Air Force bombed and fired rockets in the area of Brgy. Nagcanasan, Pilar, Abra and Sitio Paring, Brgy. Babalasioan, Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur, forcing the closure of schools and the evacuation of up to 212 families – 650 individuals. The aerial attacks followed clashes over seven hours between elements of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, in which one soldier was reported wounded.

“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) joins with the local Ilocos Human Rights Alliance and Kaammoyo Ti Kappia, and the national human rights alliance Karapatan in their calls for an end to indiscriminate bombing in civilian areas,” said its Global Chairperson, Peter Murphy.

Video taken by the fleeing civilians showed helicopters and an aircraft, which the military reported was an A-29B Super Tucano, a single engine close military support aircraft made in the USA.

“International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is the law related to war and applies to wars between states, and to intra-state conflicts such as the long-running armed rebellion by the NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” said Murphy. “IHL requires that military forces discriminate between civilians and armed fighters, and that civilians are protected. Indiscriminate bombing, artillery strikes or small arms fire are illegal under IHL”.

“We are relieved that there are so far no reports of civilian casualties from this attack in Abra and Ilocos Sur, but the massive upheaval and trauma of this farming community, already suffering from inflation of their arm inputs and from a severe drought, is still a terrible burden. We urge for a thorough independent investigation of this incident.

“The bombing as described by the people affected is illegal. The nations who supply the weapons, particularly the United States, must cease their support while these violations of IHL continue,” Murphy said.

“Instead of recklessly continuing to arm the Philippine military, the international community should press Marcos Jr to immediately re-start the formal peace talks with the NDFP, which could address the root causes of this long-running conflict – landlessness, poverty, lack of industrial development and lack of the rule of law,” Murphy concluded.

Karapatan reports that civilian victims of bombings by the Armed Forces of the Philippines increased from 2,354 in 2022, to 20,391 in 2023. This demonstrates a sharp increase in human rights violations under the new President, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, compared to his notorious predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

Defend Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law!
Stop the Bombings in the North!
Re-commence the Peace Talks!
Address the Roots of the Armed Conflict!

Further comment: Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson. WhatsApp: +61 418312301. Email: [email protected].