FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City (Feb 2, 2012) – The Commander of all Army forces in the country has reminded his troops to always adhere to the AFP IPSP Bayanihan Rules of Engagement (ROE), an Army official said.
Major Harold M Cabunoc, Army Spokesperson, said that a directive was handed down by Lieutenant General Emmanuel T Bautista to all of the major unit commanders all throughout the archipelago.
The directive sets forth guidelines on how to strictly observe human rights protection in the conduct of operations, be it combat, intelligence or civil military operations.
“Human rights protection is an integral component of the IPSP Bayanihan, as well as the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR). These two precepts require soldiers to strictly adhere to the provisions of human rights, international humanitarian law, and the rule of law,” said Cabunoc.
Army dialogues with UN representatives
During the visit of Dr. Jacqueline Badcock, the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator at the Philippine Army headquarters yesterday morning (Wednesday), General Bautista told her that the soldiers will always abide by the provisions of the IHL and the rule of law.
Bautista warmly received the delegation which also include representatives from other agencies including the UNICEF, UNHCR, OPAPP and DSWD.
“We welcome this dialogue. We hope to thresh out some issues and we hope to continuously engage, not just the UN, but other international organizations. The only way to do that is to engage each other in a dialogue and find out ways where we can be of mutual support to each other towards a common agenda. The United Nations and the Philippines have been partners since the birth of the UN. We have always been supportive of the UN cause and the UN agenda,” said Bautista in his statement.
In the open forum attended by senior military officials, Badcock said that she was impressed with the Army’s efforts and actions.
“We’ve always have a great respect for the Bayanihan, that people-centered and human security approach that you have been engaged in. That is a very positive way forward,” said Badcock.
Badcock was also pleased upon receiving the copy of the soldiers’ Rules of Engagement (ROE) card which were earlier issued by the Army to all soldiers throughout the archipelago.
“I am very pleased to have a copy of the ROE card. I think that is very important if you are going to have people upholding human rights principles and international humanitarian rule of law,” she added.
She also disclosed that "the UN have been providing support in many trainings and have been developing relationships with these offices".
Badcock appreciated the contributions of the Philippine Army in the UN Peacekeeping missions, adding that, “I will report this meeting to the peacekeeping operations (DPKO)”.
She also said that, “One of the issues that always come to the fore is on the special attention to children affected by armed conflict and any violation that come about”, adding that, “I would just like to highlight that the things that get reported to us are not just related to the Army or to the AFP. There are many violations reported to be committed by the MILF, NPA, and CAFGU,” she said.
Army’s improved rights records
Presently, the Army has recorded the lowest number of alleged human rights violations committed by soldiers. A Commission on Human Rights (CHR) report indicates a decrease in the number of cases filed against the Army personnel.
Col Francisco Pabayo, the G7 (CMO Officer) of the Philippine Army, citing records from the AFP's Human Rights Office, said that from a record number of 78 cases in 2009, 56 in 2010, to 24 in 2011, there is a 69% reduction of alleged human rights violations filed with the CHR.
“The decrease in reported allegations of human rights violations committed by our soldiers can be attributed to the people-centered and human security approach of the IPSP Bayanihan. Likewise, different measures have been undertaken by the Army including the conduct of human rights seminars in the various units of the Army, and the implementation of stringent punishment to members who violate human rights and the military’s rule of conduct,” Pabayo explained.
In all of the alleged human rights violations, the Army promptly facilitated the conduct of investigation and meted administrative sanctions against the offenders.
In Basilan province, the soldiers involved in the alleged torture of Abdul Khan Balinting Ajid had been discharged from the military service, and an officer is facing the Army’s Efficiency and Separation Board (ESB).
In Negros Occidental, two soldiers who were implicated in the alleged killing of a progressive group member were discharged from the service. They are now behind bars in a provincial jail as they are facing criminal charges before a local court.
In an article published by a national daily, for the year 2011 records of the CHR-Negros Occidental show that the NPA has topped the list of human rights violators from January-November 2011.
The head of provincial CHR, Romeo Baldevarona, said that the NPA accounted for eight of the 36 cases of human rights violations, and none for the Army, in the province.
Baldevarona commended the full commitment of the Army leaders form the infantry brigade down to the company level of command, "for upholding human rights and respect for the International Humanitarian Law, leading to the zero record of human rights violations in the province".
He stressed that the Army soldiers in the province of Negros Occidental may have been enlightened and came to realize the significant effect of human rights protection on their peace and development efforts especially in the depressed areas.
Cabunoc said, however, that some cases were dropped due to the absence of evidence that establishes the culpability of the accused soldiers.
“Based on available records, the claims that we are not acting on the alleged human rights violations is unsubstantiated. Human rights protection is an integral part of General Bautista’s command guidance in all activities of the Philippine Army,” he said.
Cabunoc said that the Director of the Commission on Human Rights in Region 5, Atty. Pelagio Senar, has cited the improved human rights record of the Philippine Army in the Bicol Region.
He revealed that Senar mentioned that the NPA rebels are among the top 3 human rights violators in the region for the past two years.
The 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has recorded 52 cases of alleged NPA liquidations in 2009 and 45 cases in 2010.
The communist rebels have publicly acknowledged their policy of extrajudicial killings, Cabunoc said adding that, “The communist rebels owned up the killings through their press releases and radio interviews. The concrete examples of these acknowledged extra-judicial killings include the murder of Masbate resident Imelda Madrilejos in 2010 and the summary execution of Albay teenagers Jason Nierbesa and Sandy Lozano in 2011”.
Another proof of NPA atrocity is the killing of a certain Veteliano Jakosalem, a farmer who was mercilessly killed by armed men who claimed to be Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the NPA in Brgy Trinidad, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental last October 10, 2010.
On September 2, 2011, the NPA’s Alip Front Operations Command in Mindanao owed up to the killing of a paramilitary man, Ramelito Gonzaga, for his supposed “crimes against the people”. The attack also resulted to the wounding of a pregnant woman.