KIDAPAWAN CITY(MindaNews/22 September) – Lawyer Alexander Padilla, chair of the government panel talking peace with the communist guerillas, has decried the indemnification of the rebel group to victims of the recent grenade blast in Paquibato district, Davao City.
In a press statement, Padilla said the payments of P5, 000 to each victim of the Paquibato circus blast was just “stopgap and diversionary measures.”
He stressed that the indemnification has also clouded the issue of violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and existing Philippine laws.
Padilla’s statement came after a group of alleged victims of NPA atrocities in Mindanao gathered on Thursday in front of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) church in Davao City to protest what they called was a “measly” payment to each blast victim.
The Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP), led by UCCP Bishop Modesto Villasanta, is acting as a broker in the settlement, according to reports from Col. Lyndon Paniza of the 10th Infantry Division.
On Wednesday, at least 50 victims of the Paquibato blast received an “initial indemnification” from the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, through the help of religious institutions, lawyers, and journalists acting as third-party facilitators.
Aside from payments, the victims received counseling and medical assistance from a team of volunteers, reports said.
In a September 12 media statement, the regional council of the NDF-Southern Mindanao, through its spokesperson Rubi Del Mundo, said the indemnification is a unilateral exercise of “revolutionary political authority” by a “government of the working class and peasantry” that has its own legal and judicial system and rules in accordance with its political principles and circumstances.
Del Mundo also stated that the indemnification is in accordance with the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The rebel spokesperson said the CARHRIHL, signed by the GPH and the NDF on March 16, 1998 in The Hague, Netherlands, provides for the indemnification and compensation to parties affected in the armed conflict.
But Arthur Tariman, lead organizer of the group that held the protest rally last Thursday said they want more than the payment.
Tariman said they demand that the NPA turns over to authorities those responsible for the blast.
Padilla, for his part, said the continued refusal of the rebel group to allow the perpetrators to be subjected to due process “adds insult to injury.”
Padilla has even derided the earlier statement of NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez that those responsible for the Paquibato attack would be dealt with based on the CPP-NPA’s “revolutionary justice.”
This “revolutionary justice,” however, according to Padilla, has already been exposed as a “sham” by many because of its alleged disregard to the rule of law, including basic human rights.
The GPH panel chair said that there have been countless civilians who became victims of the “collateral damage” in over four decades of the communist insurgency, yet the indemnification issue has been raised only now.
“The demands of justice are predicated on a rule of law and cannot be met by [a] one-off payment,” Padilla said. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)