DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Sept) – For Mayor Sara Duterte, there was no justice at all in the New People’s Army’s move to indemnify victims of the Sept. 1 grenade explosion in Paquibato district through third party facilitators.
The mayor has earlier demanded the NPA to surrender the grenade throwers for having committed a crime. But the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command refused to surrender the responsible unit because it has its own justice system and dispenses revolutionary justice in determining the consequences of the responsible unit.
“I know only of the justice under the rule of law,” she said in a text message. “We should only have one justice system for all, and we should not claim different versions of justice,” she added.
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), earlier apologized for its mistake and promised to indemnify the victims.
The NDFP-Southern Mindanao Region released an order of indemnification last Sept. 12 and requested for a third party to facilitate the process.
The Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP), a peace advocacy alliance led by clergies, said in a press statement Sept. 17 that the NDFP-SMR requested the group, among others, to act as third party facilitators for the indemnification.
The EJP previously facilitated the safe release of prisoners of war (POWs) and the resumption of peace talks between the Left and the government.
Bishop Modesto Villasanta, EJP convenor who sent the press statement, said the NDFP’s order of indemnification and its request to involve third party facilitators is a welcome step in the road towards resolving the armed conflict.
He said such gesture from the NDFP can be implied that it is a manifestation of their willingness to make reparations to the civilian victims, which is its responsibility under the Geneva Conventions and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
“Any move that aims to heal the wounds of this civil war that has been going on for decades and that is in compliance with international humanitarian law deserves support from peace-loving individuals. The best thing that can be done is to help the survivors heal and to call on both parties of armed conflict to resume the peace negotiations immediately,” the bishop said in a press statement.
The 40 facilitators from religious institutions, academe, law group, medical practitioners, media, and civil society organizations were convened last Sept. 15.
In the meantime, at least 50 wounded individuals received P5,000 each while the extent of the damage per victim is being assessed by the medical and psychosocial teams for follow through until full indemnification will be fulfilled per recommendation of the facilitators, Villasanta said.
Other than the awarding of financial assistance as payment of damages, he said the mission also included psychosocial release activity for children and adults and medical assistance for the identified casualties.
But the mayor said she is not happy with the NPA’s move to indemnify the victims.
“It can’t be that we follow the laws and they don’t. There is only one government and one law, none other,” Duterte said.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Maj. Jake Obligado, chief of the 10th Infantry Division’s civil-military operations office, said the indemnification is adding insult to the injury because there is no amount that can compensate the sufferings experienced by the victims.
“If they really want to give justice for the victims, they have to surrender the perpetrators. We only have one law that should be adhered to and that is the Constitution. Whoever violates the Constitution is a criminal. Justice should be served according to the Constitution,” he said. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)