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NDFP Adherence to International Humanitarian Law on Prisoners of War (POWs)

By Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairman
NDFP Human Rights Monitoring Committee
10 December 2009

In May 1999, the NDFP International Information Office in Utrecht, The Netherlands, published an 85-page pamphlet entitled NDFP Adherence to International Humanitarian Law on Prisoners of War. It consisted of statements and documents on the capture, investigation and release of members of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) security forces, namely, Philippine Army (PA) Brigadier General Victor Obillo, PA Capt. Eduardo Montealto, Philippine National Police (PNP) Major Roberto Bernal and PA Sergeants Alipio Lozada and Wivino Demol – all prisoners of war (POWs) of the New People’s Army (NPA) held in different parts of the country in the first quarter of 1999. The pamphlet clearly demonstrated the compliance of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) with the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Protocols on the issue of prisoners of war.

The present book, the third in the Education Series of the NDFP Human Rights Monitoring Committee, is a revised and updated version of that publication. It seeks to supplement the original pamphlet with new experiences and data, including photographs, to affirm the adherence of the NPA and the local organs of political power to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the just and humane handling and treatment of POWs. The NDFP Human Rights Monitoring Committee hopes that this
informative and educational material will be of interest not only to the forces of the NDFP but also to everyone keen on learning about the issue of POWs in the armed conflict in the Philippines.

This book consists of three parts and an appendix. The first part is basically the original pamphlet less five articles, three of which were dispensed with since their content is already included in other documents while two were replaced by new ones. The 14 January 1999 resolution of the European Parliament which was an appendix in the original pamphlet is now the first item in the appendix of the present book. The new appendix includes facsimiles of documents used by the NDFP, the GRP and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in effecting the safe and orderly releases of POWs.

Part two concerns the cases of PA Major Noel Buan and PNP Major Abelardo Martin who were captured by the NPA after the Estrada regime formally terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations on 31 May 1999. The appeal for their release in January 2000 by the Humanitarian and Peace Mission of Senator Loren Legarda, Catholic Bishop Jesus Varela of Sorsogon and Supreme Bishop Tomas Millamena of the Philippine Independent Church and Chairman of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), became the occasion for the NDFP to issue the document Updated NDFP Position on the Issue of Prisoners of War and the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations. This document sets forth in clear terms certain premises concerning POWs of the NPA.

Part three is a compilation of statements and documents that concretely show the humane treatment accorded by the NPA to its POWs. It includes an article that puts in a coherent manner the testimonies of the POWs themselves about how they were treated during their captivity. There is also a partial list of POWs held by the NPA from 1988 to 2009. The list is not exhaustive since many POWs were held only briefly, i.e., a day or two or even hours in consideration of the capabilities and circumstances of concerned revolutionary forces at a given time and place.

It has been more than ten years since the publication of the original pamphlet in May 1999. Yet the GRP, despite the regime change from Joseph Estrada to Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has remained adamant in its position of refusing to negotiate with the NDFP on the release of POWs of the NPA. It continues to mouth the lie that the NPA “kidnaps” the POWs even though it acknowledges the existence of the armed conflict between the forces of the GRP and the NDFP in the peace negotiations. It even allows third party entities – usually religious leaders and national and local officials as well as the families of the POWs – to appeal for their release on humanitarian grounds and ask for the suspension of military and police operations by local units of the AFP and PNP for the safe and orderly release of the POWs with the participation of representatives of the ICRC.

The Arroyo regime has turned out to be worse than the Estrada regime in violating human rights and international humanitarian law. It has equaled the Marcos fascist regime in viciousness and impunity, riding on Bush’s war of terror in a futile attempt to wipe out or render irrelevant the revolutionary movement by 2010 through its internal security plan Oplan Bantay Laya. It has become notorious internationally for widespread and systematic violations of human rights, massive corruption and, recently, the arming of warlords who commit brutal massacres and violence against the people. It continues to commit violations of international humanitarian law in its dirty war against the revolutionary movement and the people not only in the killing of thousands of unarmed civilians, including immediate relatives of suspected NPA fighters and hors de combat, but also in conducting indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardments of communities and the strafing of houses that have resulted in the massacre of families and the internal displacement of millions of people.

The armed revolution in the Philippines is a just war for national and social liberation. It is directed against an exploitative and oppressive social system that has been described scientifically as semi-colonial and semi-feudal. Philippine society is under the joint rule of the very few big compradors and landlords supported by foreign monopoly capitalists. These ruling classes have kept the vast majority of the Filipino people, the more than 90% of workers and peasants, into a life of deprivation, poverty, disease and ignorance.

In the conduct of the war, the NDFP is firmly committed to respect the rights of POWs and treat them humanely in accordance with the bill of fundamental rights in the Guide for Establishing the People’s Democratic Government, the Rules of the New People’s Army, the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the international law on human rights and the laws on armed conflict. It has time and again demonstrated this commitment in practice as documented in this publication. The NDFP does so in the exercise of its political authority as a co-belligerent in the armed conflict. The members of the GRP armed forces are hereby assured that their rights would be respected and they would be treated humanely when they are captured by the NPA.

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