Human rights alliance Karapatan condemned what it described as a “series of threats and harassment” of members of a humanitarian mission that tried to assist families of alleged rebels killed in Quezon province.
A 16-member humanitarian mission went to San Francisco town in Quezon province, but were stopped in several military and police checkpoints, said Karapatan.
At least two vehicles of the mission were impounded in Catanauan town for alleged violations while the drivers were interviewed by authorities, said Karapatan in a statement to the media.
“State forces and government agencies are in full connivance in violation of basic rights of persons to travel, for human rights groups to provide assistance, and worse, they are impeding assistance for the families of the dead,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
She claimed that barring the families and not allowing a civilian humanitarian mission to assist people from retrieving their dead violate provisions in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
The CARHRIHL, an agreement signed by the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, states under Article 3 that violations of the international humanitarian law includes the “desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict or while under detention, and breach of duty to tender immediately such remains to their families or to give them decent burial.”
The provision is consistent with articles of the Geneva conventions on the return of the remains of the dead to their next of kin.
The mission was supposed to claim the bodies of alleged members of the New People’s Army who were slain in an encounter with the 85th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Karapatan’s Palabay called on the Commission on Human Rights to probe into possible human rights violations committed in the course of military operations in the towns of San Andres and San Francisco in Quezon province, where the alleged military encounters took place.
“We call on the Commission on Human Rights to help the families of those killed, and look into the situation of the communities on the ground, to see whether there are possible violations in the context of international humanitarian law,” said Palabay.
A report on government-run Philippine News Agency said classes have been suspended in all elementary and secondary schools in 11 remote barangays of San Francisco town until February 3 due to ongoing hot pursuit operations of government forces against the rebels.
Memorandum Circular No. 2023-03A issued by Mayor Romulo Edaño on Wednesday canceled classes in all elementary and secondary schools in the villages of Butanguiad, Casay, Don Juan Vercelos, Huyon-huyon, Inabuan, Mabunga, Nasalaan, Pagsangahan, Pugon, Silongin and Sto. Niño from February 1-3.
Edaño, in his memorandum, said “this is to ensure the safety of residents after the rebel group had an encounter with the combined military and police forces, who conducted a hot pursuit operation in the said areas last Sunday.”
On January 27, an encounter ensued between military and rebel groups in the adjacent town of San Andres where a soldier was hurt and three rebels were killed.
In a report, the Police Regional Office 4A identified the fatalities as members of the Platon Reymark, Sub-Regional Military Area 4B of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.
The insurgents fled to different directions and the 11 barangays in San Francisco covered by the memorandum are included in the military’s areas of pursuit operations. – with a report from the Philippine News Agency
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