President Duterte invokes Geneva Convention; warns NPA on use of landmines

President Duterte invokes Geneva Convention; warns NPA on use of landmines

DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo R. Duterte is invoking the Geneva Convention and the Protocol on use of destructive explosives as he warned the New People’s Army (NPA) against the use of landmines, otherwise he would pull out the GRP Peace Panel from the negotiation table with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the Aug. 20 peace talks in Oslo, Norway.

He issued the warning at the wake of the slain soldiers whose bodies were mutilated from a landmine explosion planted by the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in series of attacks last Friday in Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley that left three soldiers dead and 10 wounded and in Parasanon, Maragusan, Compostela Valley with one soldier dead.

Two rebels also died and one was wounded in the two incidents.

On Aug. 4, the NPA also attacked a patrolling army that left two soldiers wounded.

The clashes came after President Duterte lifted the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the communists.

Speaking to the media at past 2 a.m Sunday at the Naval Forces Camp in Panacan, the President addressed the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on the rules of war.

“Kasi po, if it is to your advantage and I have been around in government for the last 40 years, you are the very first to cry foul when something goes wrong, even in the handling of prisoners, marami pong sundalo na idenimanda ninyo (you have filed charges against many soldiers) under the Geneva Convention in the handling of prisoners,” he said.

He reminded that one of the “very humane provisions, ibinabawal po ‘yung landmine (landmine is prohibited). I cannot understand for the life of me that if it is to your advantage, you invoke the Geneva Convention provisions.”

The President noted he has been telling rebels about the use of landmine. “Akala ko ba sumusunod tayo sa Geneva Convention (I thought we adhere to the Geneva Convention)?” he quipped.

The Philippines has been a signatory to the Geneva Conventions which set rules dealing on the treatment of wounded and sick armed forces in the field; the convention dealing on the sick, wounded, and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea; convention dealing on the treatment of prisoners of war during times of conflict; and the convention on the treatment of civilians and their protection during wartime.

The Philippines is also a signatory to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of which under Protocol II prohibits and restricts Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices.

President Duterte has given the CPP a 24-hour ultimatum to commit against landmines or the choice that he will also order the Armed Forces to use landmines if they are in the position and ambush rebels. “Which is which?” he asked.

“I cannot be — a different rule for you and — a different rule for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police. Or would you rather?” he added.

“Decide now: Gagamit ba tayo ng landmine? Kasi kung gagamit tayo (Will we use landmine? If we use, I will order the Armed Forces to prepare the explosives also, ordnance, para tabla (so we are on par). Eh bakit ‘yung sundalo lang ng gobyerno ang magdusa nito? Lahat tayo (Why would only the soldiers of the government suffer on this? All of us). I can understand ‘yung prinsipyo mo, (I can understand your principle), fine.”

President Duterte said he has been pleading to continue the peace to end the 45-year insurgency in the country, even keeping his silence the past days after lifting the unilateral ceasefire despite the ranting of CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison.

“But this cannot go on, this crazy thing about — just na-landmine ito, ‘yung mukha wala na. And this has been going on for 45 years. Ano ang naibigay ninyo sa Pilipinas actually? (What have you offered for the Philippines)? You cannot even hold a barangay. Influence, yes,” he added.

The President is still committed to continue with the peace talks but asked the communist movement to decide because he does want to hear another explosion that would kill the civilians and the soldiers.

He also insisted to include the landmine issues or else no talks at all. “Then we fight for another 45 years,” he said, adding that he would even use funds for basic services for the recruitment of additional forces and war against insurgents.

“Either you stop it or we stop talking. Fight na lang, another 45 years,” he stressed.

On Friday, at around 7:50 a.m., pursuing troops were waylaid by about 60 NPA rebels in the same village, who set off improvised bombs. Three soldiers died and 10 others were wounded.

10th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Rhyan Batchar said a female rebel was also killed while three others were captured during the incident, one of whom was wounded and was given first-aid by the soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, joined the people’s call for peace through negotiations as he underscored the urgency to “end these senseless violence because they are Filipinos.”

While they will not be on tactical offensive, Valencia said they will not hesitate to use legitimate force to protect communities and the people from any armed group terrorizing them. Lilian Mellejor/PNA/