DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 March) — The New People’s Army (NPA) has admitted responsibility and apologized for the landmine attack that injured five medical workers in Barangay Managa, Bansalan, Davao del Sur on March 2.
In a statement Wednesday, the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command expressed its “deep regret” for the incident, and said it was commiserating with the victims from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), namely Genaro Doronio Dumayas (driver), Bonita dela Cruz
(nurse), Arnel Comandante Veloroso and Alberto Simbajon Cabual.
Army reports also claimed that Ivan Malingo, another PDRRMC member, was wounded in the attack.
“We take responsibility for this act as we take cognizance of the fact that the medical staff and mobile medical units should not have been made target of any attack and whose protection and/or safety is
guaranteed under international humanitarian law,” the statement said.
“We have also ordered for a full investigation and if complete data and evidence warrant, promise to undertake appropriate measures and impose disciplinary actions against the responsible NPA unit,” it added.
The NPA said those who mounted the attacks were under the Mt. Apo Subregional Command who “failed to distinguish the ambulance from its target, the two military trucks.”
The military said that aside from the five civilians 12 military personnel were injured in the landmine explosions.
But the NPA said the two attacks “yielded 13 fatalities and 11 wounded 39th Infantry Battalion soldiers” including two lieutenants, two corporals, and seven privates first class. It added one guerrilla was wounded.
The first explosion occurred around noon in Sitio Bagsak, Managa, and the second at 6pm, the rebel group said.
It claimed that the rebels who staged the ambush “discharged the explosives against the
military vehicle. Regrettably, the blast affected the ambulance which was closely following the 6×6 truck.”
Those hit in the second explosion were supposed to be on their way to aid the 12 wounded soldiers.
City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte meanwhile condemned the attack.
“Whatever kind of landmines, even if they claim it to be remote-detonated, it’s not allowed by the Geneva Convention,” Duterte said during Tuesday’s commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the Sasa airport bombing. “What is prohibited in government should also be prohibited to them. What is prohibited to them is also prohibited with the government.”
The Geneva Conventions carry no provisions on the use of landmines. It’s the 1997 Ottawa Convention, often referred to as the Mine Ban Treaty that bans the use of anti-personnel mines.
The treaty defines “anti-personnel mine” as a mine “designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.” It further says that “mines designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle as opposed to a person, that are equipped with anti-handling devices, are not considered anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped.”
Based on this provision the NPA has always argued that its use of command-detonated mines does not violate International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the law governing armed conflicts.
IHL, however, obliges belligerents to ensure that attacks should only be carried out against military targets.
“If they can cite treaties against the government, then the government can do the same,” said Duterte.
“Recognize that there is war. But we will not cut the lines of communication, or pick a fight with them,” said Duterte on the incident.
The government peace panel in talks with the National Democratic Front also condemned what it called the NPA’s series of violations of IHL following the recent landmine attacks in Davao del Sur.
“The attack by the NPA on a convoy of ambulances in the town of Bansalan, Davao del Sur using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) earlier today constitutes a clear-cut violation of IHL, or specifically Republic Act no. 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other crimes against humanity,” the government panel said in a statement Sunday.
“The protection accorded to medical personnel, especially those belonging to the Red Cross, their vehicles and installations, is one of the cornerstones of IHL.
“It is only under very specific circumstances that such personnel, buildings or vehicles may lose such protection, namely when they take direct part in or used in direct support of the armed hostilities,” the statement read.
The panel stressed that “the ambulances were en route to transport wounded soldiers, who likewise enjoy protection under IHL because they are, by virtue of their injuries hors de combat (incapable to perform their duties).”
“They targeted not only civilians but civilians on a medical or humanitarian mission—one of the most assiduously protected under the law.”
“It is necessary to emphasize that, contrary to their representations, the NPA does not respect basic human rights or IHL, and that their so-called adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) is only lip-service, done at their convenience,” the statement said. (MindaNews)