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With Indiscriminate Aerial Strikes in Negros and the Torture and Killing of Bilar 5, Violations of International Humanitarian Law Continue to Mount under Marcos Jr.

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With Indiscriminate Aerial Strikes in Negros and the Torture and Killing of Bilar 5, Violations of International Humanitarian Law Continue to Mount under Marcos Jr.

Press Statement
February 28, 2024

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) is deeply concerned about the ongoing level of state violence and repression directed rural communities and by continued reports of War Crimes and violations International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by state security forces in the Philippines.

The machineries of state terror, including the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terror Law, built during the US-Duterte Regime, remain in place.  Despite attempts at rebranding following the recent visit of UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan, the Anti-Terrorism Law with its broad sweeping powers and the NTF-ELCAC, along with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, continue to operate as mechanisms to crush dissent and to violate the civil and political rights of citizens.

ICHRP denounces the most recent state violations of IHL in the form of aerial strikes in Escalante, Negros Occidental which occurred on February 22nd.  According to media reports, at least five rockets were fired by a helicopter in Brgy. Pinapugasan, Escalante. The aerial strikes were carried out a day after the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army said that encounters between soldiers and members of the New People’s Army began on February 21. The military’s aerial bombings have resulted in the forcible evacuation of more than 300 families from the area.

Videos posted on social media, showed helicopters, reportedly Blackhawk and Augusta Westland 109 attack helicopters, hovering in the area. In one video, tracer bullets were seen flying over a house at night, indicating random firing in the vicinity of the community.

ICHRP condemns the use of aerial strikes in Escalante and the forced evacuation of civilians, and calls for an immediate investigation of these incidents as both appear to constitute violations of IHL.

In another recent incident, reported by the news media site Kodao, the 47th Infantry Battalion (47IB) and the Bohol Philippine National Police (PNP) captured 5 individuals including Atty. Hannah Cesista, Parlio Historia, Marlon Omusura, Alberto Sancho and Domingo Compoc in a house they stayed in Sitio Matin-ao 2, Barangay Campagao on the morning of February 23, 2024. Government authorities claimed the five were killed in a three-hour gun battle that also killed a Police Corporal Gilbert Amper. Compoc, 60, allegedly a top Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader in the province, was photographed in the custody of a government soldier after his apparent capture. 

Compoc who suffered from arthritis, was hacked at his neck and torso, before being killed in front of residents. According to a witness, Cesista a young lawyer, was ordered to crawl on mud before being executed. All five were reported to have died in military custody.

Such incidents are contrary to international laws of war (IHL) because all the victims were tortured and killed following their capture. Even combatants are ceded IHL protections once in custody.  Such incidents are part of a disturbing pattern where the state security forces in the Philippines continue to act with impunity.

Nations such as Australia, Canada, the US and Japan are turning a blind eye to such violations of IHL in favour of deepening security cooperation and arms sales to the Philippines as part of their broader China containment strategy. “Military support from Canada and the US for the Philippine governments war on dissent after its withdrawal from the ICC makes a mockery of IHL and respect for human rights,” said Reverend Patricia Lisson, ICHRP Canada spokesperson.

“In this context we should be turning the screws on the Philippine military instead of bolstering aid and supporting the IHL violators through military cooperation,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson.

Countless incidents of hamletting, red-tagging, harassment of civilians, and indiscriminate firing and aerial bombing of communities have been reported over the past year in different areas of the Philippines, including Cagayan Valley, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, Negros Island, and Mindanao.

“In this context we urge the international community and international institutions to stand with the victims and those who struggle for democracy and human rights in the Philippines. We call for continued pressure through international mechanisms and international solidarity action to push the Philippine government to respect the rules of war and abide by International Humanitarian Law,” concluded Murphy.

Defend Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law!
Stop the Bombings, End State Terror!
Address the Roots of the Armed Conflict!

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