Karapatan condemns massacre of seven CPP-NDF staff, cover-up by gov’t operatives

"Stop justifying the unjustifiable,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the massacre of seven personnel of the National Democratic Front (NDF)  and Communist Party of the Philippines in Panay, and the consequent cover-up orchestrated by state security forces thereafter.
 
Palabay called the incident a gross violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). She reiterated that according to Karapatan-Panay’s investigation, the victims were non-combatants, and provisions of IHL concerning non-combatants should have applied to them.

On the midnight of August 15, 2018, seven of the education and propaganda staff of the CPP and NDF were brutally massacred by combined elements of the 301st Brigade, 61st Infantry Battalion, Antique PMF, and San Jose police in Atabay, San Jose, Antique. Victims were identified as Felix Salditos, Eldie Labinghisa, Peter Mecinas, Karen Ceralvo, Liezl Bandiola, Jason Talibo and Jason Sanchez.

According to Karapatan-Panay’s investigation, the seven were sleeping when the military and other government operatives repeatedly fired at the house where they were staying, until they were sure that all individuals inside the house were dead. According to reports, almost all parts of the abandoned house were covered in blood.

The operatives claimed that the seven engaged them in a 30-minute gunfight. Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, Western Visayas police director, said that the group fought government troops and that they had “to defend themselves.” Hand grenades and firearms were also allegedly recovered from the site. However, the firearms and grenades were only shown to the media nine hours after the incident. 

“How many times have we heard this narrative? This is the familiar routine of State forces who want to legitimize their abuses. Whether it is in the urban centers where they are chasing alleged drug suspects, or in the countryside where an armed struggle is currently being waged, the military and the police use the same, tired narrative of “nanlaban”, combined with the planting of evidence,” Palabay said.

“We reiterate that this is a massacre, an operation of State forces with the intent to kill. This is an indicative of a government with no regard for human rights, much less for international humanitarian law. We are outraged at how cruel, how remorseless this regime is. It has set aside all agreements and laws that aim to protect parties to the armed conflict,” Palabay added.

The International Humanitarian Law, also known as the law of armed conflict, lists a set of rules that seeks to limit the excesses of armed conflict. It covers the protection of non-combatants and people who are no longer participating in the hostilities.

Palabay recalled the killing of seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and two civilians in Lacub, Abra on September 4 and 5, 2014. The military claimed that the deaths were because of an encounter, but a fact-finding mission revealed that the victims were taken alive, bore signs of torture, and were killed even if they had no capacity to fight back. The perpetrators even desecrated the remains of the victims.

“A massacre is what this government considers a victory. Rights abuses and grave violations to human rights and international humanitarian law are considered triumph for this government. This incident further demonstrates the mercenary character of the military and the police, and the unbridled fascism of the Duterte regime. As the perpetrators scramble to justify the unjustifiable, the victims’ families will march for justice,” concluded Palabay.