Government to protect defenseless, vulnerable
BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea has expressed concern over human rights violations by communist rebels in its failed attempt in more than fifty years to topple down the government.
Countless human rights abuses against our people have been committed by communist armed groups that have been battling the Philippine government for more than five decades, said Medialdea in his speech on Monday, Sept. 9, during the annual commemoration of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
“These groups are relentless in seeking the downfall of our government and the death of our democratic ideals,” the Palace official said in his speech read by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Michael Ong, during a program held at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)..
But as the country continues to confront various terror threats head-on with the strong arm of the law and all available resources at its disposal, Medialdea said the government will remain committed to protecting the defenseless and vulnerable in every armed conflict.
“We continue to impress upon everyone the Philippine government’s committed adherence to the guiding principles of IHL while addressing the threats to national peace and security,” said Medialdea.
“This commitment is summed up in this year’s theme, ‘IHL: Protecting the Defenseless in Times of Armed Conflict’,” Medialdea said.
He added that for the first part of 2019, these communist groups have perpetrated several atrocities such as: summary execution of police officers; planted landmines in Negros Oriental; brutally killed leaders of indigenous peoples in Oriental Mindoro, Negros Occidental, Bukidnon, and Agusan del Norte; destruction of development projects, such as the hydropower plant in Oriental Mindoro, and the burning of the construction equipment for the Kaliwa dam project in Quezon; and attacked companies, fruit plantations and mining firms in Mindanao whose owners resisted their extortion activities.
“This local terrorism is even aiming to spread its influence in schools. Fifty- five (55) so-called Salugpungan schools in remote villages were found to be used by the terrorists to train more than a thousand children from indigenous peoples communities as child combatants,” he said.
High schools and universities, he added, have likewise become hotbeds for recruitment.
“True to the spirit of IHL, it (PH government) shall stay faithful to the law (Republic Act 11188) that ensures special protection of children in situations of armed conflict; the national plan of action on women, peace and security (2017-2020) that embodies protection of women and girls in conflict situations,” Medialdea said.
The government will also stay committed to the mission of the National Task Force created and chaired by no less than President Rodrigo R. Duterte, to put an end to local communist terrorism as stipulated in Executive Order No. 70, he added.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) is a partnership between the government and like-minded sectors of society — under the whole-of-nation approach — that shall advance and sustain all these efforts.
Medialdea also expressed his deepest gratitude to all the men and women in uniform who courageously stand on the ground to confront these threats while upholding their role as protectors of our people.
“Your work continues to define the Philippine government’s strong and firm commitment to International Humanitarian Law. God bless and keep you always,” he said.
The national observance of IHL Day is pursuant to Executive Order No, 134 (s. 1999) that declares every 12th of August as such.
This year’s commemoration was, however, postponed by the ad hoc Inter-Agency Committee to Sept. 9 during the DFA’s flag-raising ceremony.
Being a party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocol II Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, the EO provides that the Philippines adheres to the principles of humanitarian laws or the laws of armed conflict.
The annual commemoration aims to enhance understanding by officials and personnel of government departments, law enforcement agencies, and local government units of the principles of IHL, and to raise the people’s consciousness and promote greater awareness of the same.
Activities for the observance of IHL Day are prepared by the ad hoc Committee co-chaired by DFA and Department of National Defense, and composed of representatives from DFA, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of the Interior and Local Government, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Manila, Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), Commission on Human Rights, and the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat. (with PNA report)