AFP troops killing, torturing and using civilians as human shields*
CPP Information Bureau
December 20, 2010
The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas said today that the Armed Forces of the Philippines was killing, torturing and using civilians as human shields in military operations in Las Navas, Northern Samar from November-December. "The human rights violations of the AFP's 8th Infantry Division are being suppressed while malicious accusations are levied against the New People's Army for black propaganda," said Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. "The AFP's human rights violations were committed in the course of widespread military operations beginning in the first week of December. These combat operations are continuing even after the start of the AFP's ceasefire declaration on Dec. 16."
Fr. Salas said that 8th ID troops used civilians as human shields, which led to the death of two civilians in the NPA riverside ambush on Dec. 8 between Brgy. Taylor and Brgy. Impon. "According to a report from the NPA's Rogelio Bantilo Command, four civilians were about to leave Las Navas town proper for Brgy. Poponton on a "dalamas" (motorized banca), when six soldiers from the 83rd Civil Military Operations Unit suddenly boarded. Julito Casio, the owner of the boat and incumbent barangay captain of Brgy. Poponton, protested the presence of armed men, fearing ambush by the NPA. But the soldiers, who were out of uniform, ignored Casio's protests and demanded passage. Red fighters from the RBC spotted the boat and the armed men on their way and opened fire, because the NPA was aware for several months of continuous military operations and knew that the soldiers involved were disguised as civilians. Four soldiers were killed or wounded, but two others immediately leaped free from the boat upon the burst of gunfire.
"The Red fighters approached the boat and discovered that there were civilian casualties -- all of whom were still alive. But when the Red fighters were about to rescue the wounded civilians, the two soldiers who had earlier escaped suddenly began strafing. The soldiers' shooting killed one Red fighter and wounded another, while Brgy. Capt. Casio was also hit in the head and died instantly. The NPA was forced to withdraw and was no longer able to rescue the civilian casualties, one of whom, 15-year-old "Alan" (not his real name), also died later."
Fr. Salas noted the AFP troops violated international humanitarian law, by using the civilians as human shields, and by indiscriminately firing when they had saved themselves and knew that there still civilians left behind who were bound to be hit. "The NPA regrets and apologizes for the incident and will strive to indemnify the civilian victims. Meanwhile, the AFP should also acknowledge its accountability and indemnify the victims they had put in danger in the first place, and whom it denies shooting because it is claimed the AFP troops never opened fire."
In relation to this, the NDF-EV spokesperson also said that Brgy. Capt. Casio had gone to Las Navas town proper to report to the police and municipal authorities about the killing by soldiers in his village of a civilian. "Before the ambush, Brgy. Capt. Casio had complained to government authorities that soldiers from the Bravo Company of the 87th IB had killed Torib de la Cruz on the night of Dec. 4 in Brgy. Poponton. De la cruz, who was mentally handicapped, had gone drinking with the soldiers, who were also with private armed group members "Aresgado" and "Cabatoan". The villagers discovered his bruised and bloodied body floating in the river the next day; he had been stabbed thrice in the chest and also suffered a gunshot wound. The details of this incident was suppressed by the military, who instead focused on maligning the NPA for the Dec. 8 ambush."
Fr. Salas cited other human rights violations by the military in Las Navas:
1. An MG-520 attack helicopter strafed the farmlands between Brgy. Cuenco and Brgy. Capotoan on Nov. 28.
2. Up to 164 AFP troops began basing in Brgy. Poponton starting on the first week of December, mingling with civilians in their houses.
3. "Jeffrey" (not his real name), an 18-year-old minor and peasant youth, was shot at by soldiers while working in his farm but fortunately escaped unharmed on Dec. 8 in Brgy. Paco. The troops were identified as from the Bravo Company of the 87th IB, who chased "Jeffrey" while shouting that he must be an NPA member. The soldiers also burned "Jeffrey's" 40-kilo abaca produce worth about P1,600, as well as other personal belongings.
4. A certain "Inggo", who is from Brgy. Osmena and mentally handicapped, was arrested and tortured by soldiers in their camp.
The NDF-EV spokesperson also dismissed allegations the NPA violates international humanitarian law as old hat. "Regarding the Dec. 14 ambush, the NPA has long clarified that it uses command-detonated land mines, which are allowed by international humanitarian law, while contact-detonated land mines are not. As for the regrettable civilian casualty, the NPA is investigating the matter and is willing to indemnify the family of the victim.
"The NDF-EV calls on the Aquino government and the 8th ID to respect international humanitarian law, not to make a mockery out of it in desperate attempts at black propaganda against the NPA. Because it serves the people, the NPA is willing to accept responsibility where it is at fault. But the people on the other hand have to struggle for their rights to straighten out the contortions of the AFP on respecting the rights of civilians."