DAVAO ORIENTAL – Every person should know his or her rights against rebel atrocities, says an army executive in a media conference Monday afternoon.
Lt. Col. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, the new commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army is urging civilians, especially those who are vulnerable and have suffered abuses from the rebels, to know their rights as they are protected under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Under this special agreement, which was signed by the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front in 1998, the lives, properties and interests of civilians should be protected.
However, with the widespread atrocities committed by the New People’s Army rebels, the military is now intensifying its campaign to educate people of their rights and to expose the rebels’ abuses and breaches on the international humanitarian law.
Slated to be relaunched here on April, the information dissemination campaign on CARHRIHL targets to reach all households and individuals. “Every household must know what their rights are. Every household must know what CARHRIHL is,” Obligado asserted.
Involved in this massive and bold campaign is the Provincial Government along with all stakeholders on peace and development.
During his presentation, Obligado highlighted salient points of the agreement, mainly part four, article 4, section 4 of the CARHIHL, which centers on the civilian’s rights to be treated as such and distinguished from combatants and that they (the civilians) along with their properties should be spared from the attacks, especially from explosives and landmines.
Despite this agreement, the rebels have been continually antagonizing government forces and have been hurting civilians in the process. Obligado cited the various serious violations of the NPA rebels over the years, which include extortion in the guise of ‘revolutionary taxes’, burning of heavy equipment, and even up to the extent of killing civilians, forcing communities to fled their homes in desperate attempt to escape the terrors the rebels inflicted on them.
The clash between the military and the NPA rebels last February has left one army officer and two civilians killed. Just last week, said Obligado, the rebels planted a landmine in Sitio Maglahus in Caraga town that killed one soldier and wounded three. “CARHRIHL clearly condemns the laying of landmines. They (the rebels) signed this so they should abide by this,” he stressed pinpointing the rebel group’s outright violations.
Establishing sound mechanisms to protect the civilian population from abuses, Obligado emphasized the need to advocate on CARHRIHL.
Aside from knowing what their rights are, he said that civilians should also exercise their ‘right to demand appropriate action against abuses’. “So, it should not only be the police and soldiers who should complain, it should also be the civilians,” he said, citing some farmers who have reported to the police some identified members of the NPA rebels who harvested their coconut crops without permission. “We should encourage victims to complain and take a stand, otherwise they will just become part of the statistics,” he said. He asserted that it is also the role of the community to provide intelligence to the authorities. “In every atrocity committed, we need to file legal charges.”
Obligado reiterated that the people should know that under this agreement, they are protected by the government and the other party. “NDF, being the signatory, must be made to explain NPA’s violation and be compelled to discipline their ranks.”
As part of its intensified campaign on CARHRIHL, the military is now taking the initiative of handing over information material such as stickers to civilians and is set to launch massive information dissemination. He said these special stickers that the military together with the Local Government Units will reproduce will be placed on conspicuous areas of homes, businesses, stores, and heavy equipment, among others.
With this, he urged the media to play a significant role in educating the general public and all sectors of society. “We need to advocate on CARHRIHL,” Obligado said. By Karen Lou Deloso/Photo by Eden Jhan Licayan