Human rights case filed against NPA in Bukidnon

Almost a year after victims of abuses allegedly committed by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Bukidnon went to court, another group of civilians went to court on September 2, 2020, to press charges against the rebel group for violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

CHARGES VS. NPA. Northern Mindanao regional prosecutor Merlyn Uy (middle) answers queries from reporters during a press conference following the filing of cases against members of the communist New People’s Army in Bukidnon at a local court in Cagayan de Oro City on Sept. 2, 2020. The complainants and their families filed three cases against 22 suspects for alleged atrocities, including killing and destroying properties. (PNA photo by Jigger J. Jerusalem)

Bukidnon provincial prosecutor Rommel Alonto said several NPA members in Bukidnon are now facing a new round of charges for violating Republic Act 9851, or the Philippine Act on crimes against international humanitarian law, genocide, and other crimes against humanity.

Alonto said the complainants and their families filed three cases against 22 suspects who allegedly committed several atrocities, including killing and destroying properties, on three separate occasions.

Under RA 9851, the law prohibits killing or “attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.” It is also stated that it is unlawful to attack civilian properties which are undefended and which are not military objectives.

The three cases were filed before the court of Judge Arthur Abundiente of Regional Trial Court Branch 25, the designated court to handle IHL cases in the region.

Alonto said of the 22 accused, 17 persons are charged with burning a sugarcane plantation and killing a police officer and wounding another in Sitio Mapait, Barangay New Eden, Pangantucan town on Dec. 12, 2015.

The suspects are identified as alias “Muling Micabalo,” Lorna Micabalao alias “Nancy,” Juvilito Pontillas alias “CJ,” “Tiga,” and “Juvy,” Almer Calacar also known as (a.k.a.) “Niko,” alias “Ka Yaya” or “LJ,” Vicente Pontillas Jr. a.k.a. “Bryan,” Vicente Pontillas Sr. a.k.a. “Ka Mulo,” Warwen del Rosario a.k.a. “Ka Agbon” or alias “Janin,” Virgilio Canoy alias “Bilyong,” Reynaldo Libres alias “Ariel,” Bernie Hintapa alias “Dodong Binao,” Richard Libres, Dahulo Ortiz a.k.a. “John,” Lorena Micabalo alias “Jayjay,” Rosalie Omandam alias “RR,” Jonald Saludar alias “Sam,” and Emie Santa Ana alias “Moring,” or “Arabu.”

Four of the suspects – alias “Ladong,” alias “Mecmec,” alias “Nex,” and alias “Paling” – were accused of shooting to death a certain Jerson Blanza, who’s a son of a barangay official, and attempted to kill Mark Dave Gabas, Ebenezer Abejuela, Love Tubongbanua, Jeter Gubaton, and Juliet Caburatan.

The suspects are allegedly members of the NPA’s Malayag Guerrilla Front.

Alonto said the victims were taking a bath at a spring in Barangay Spring Kawayan, San Fernando town, Bukidnon, on May 22 this year when the NPA fired at them.

The third case involved an NPA commander known only as alias “DR” who allegedly shot to death Renato Labisto in Sitio Bagong Lipunan, Barangay Linabo, Quezon town on June 7, 2020.

Alonto said all the suspects have been at-large.

He said the victims are “unarmed civilians, a non-combatant who have not participated in armed hostilities against the NPA, to their damage and prejudice in the amount as may be allowed by law.”

Alonto said the RA 9851 was passed to protect civilians from attacks during an armed conflict.

He said parties to the conflict, the Armed Forces and communist rebels, should not harm civilians who are not in any way connected to the armed conflict.

Col. Ferdinand Barandon, commander of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, said the Army helped facilitate the filing of IHL cases against the culprits as part of the legal cluster of the task force to end the local communist armed conflict.

The brigade covers the city, Misamis Oriental, and parts of Bukidnon.

Barandon said they assisted in protecting the complainants and their families as well as in the gathering of evidence.

“We are closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police, especially the municipal police offices, as they are the first to arrive at the crime scene. We provide security, also help them identify witnesses,” Barandon said.

In November last year, the brigade also helped complainants in taking legal action against five NPA members who allegedly injured a village watchman while they burned vehicles in Manolo Fortich town, Bukidnon, in May last year.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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