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Philippine insurgents killing civilians alarm Church, rights group

Communist rebels admit to killing at least 8 people for being 'informers'
This photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People's Army (NPA) in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, located east of Manila.

This photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People's Army (NPA) in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, located east of Manila. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 15, 2024 08:38 AM GMT
Updated: May 15, 2024 08:42 AM GMT

A leading human rights group and the Catholic Church have voiced alarm over reported civilian killings and rights abuses brought about by government anti-insurgency operations on Negros Island in the central Philippines.

The insurgent group called the New People’s Army "has admitted to have extrajudicially killed at least eight people who they accused of being spies,” Carlos Conde, senior researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, told UCA News on May 14.

“These executions, carried out after sham trials, violate international law and may constitute war crimes,” he said.

The Philippine military also needs to ensure that its counter-insurgency operations "do not violate the human rights of residents, even suspected rebels. Both parties need to abide by the rules of war,” Conde added.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a Maoist-inspired guerrilla war since the late 1960s, the longest-running insurgency in the world.

It has been designated a terrorist group by the Philippine government, the United States, the European Union, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada.

"Even our courts cannot order the death penalty"

Meanwhile, Vincent Parra, head of the Commission on Human Rights on Negros Island, said the commission has launched a probe into the killings of civilians who were allegedly identified as “military agents” by rebel forces this and last month in various remote villages in Negros Occidental.

“Executing people is a violation of the right to life…. Even our courts cannot order the death penalty. Killing cannot be justified on the allegation that they are military informers, it is a violation of the right to life,” Parra said in a statement to the media on May 11.

“We welcome any investigation that will shed light on these incidents and help bring justice for the victims and their families,” added Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Negros Oriental, in a separate statement.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, in a May 12 pastoral letter, has called for the tolling of church bells across Negros Island every evening at 8 PM “as a prayer for the end of violence” on the island.

San Carlos diocese is one of four on Negros Island that covers some towns and cities of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental provinces, including San Carlos City.

Alminaza’s pastoral letter, titled "Embracing Our Christian Duty to Work for Integral Peace," to be read during Sunday masses, came amid a series of civilian deaths and the alleged May 6 clash between government forces and rebels in an area of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, which reportedly displaced some 580 residents.

Social teachings of the church emphasize "the need for us to build bridges of dialogue, to embrace solidarity, and to work tirelessly for peace,” Alminaza said.

The bishop encouraged dialogue "to control and resolve the fundamental issues driving unrest, aiming for sustainable peace.”

The more than 50-year communist insurgency has reportedly claimed the lives of at least 40,000 people.

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