Attacks vs peace consultants violate human rights and international humanitarian law

Human rights group Karapatan denounced the “series of possible blatant and brazen violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the peace process.”

At dawn on November 25, at around 3:00 a.m., elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police from its national office and Region IV-A along with cops from the Antipolo and Angono local police reportedly raided the rented house by sickly and elderly couple Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, both 69 years old and consultants of the NDFP to the peacetalks with the GRP, at 12 Kinglet St., Meralco Village, Angono City, Rizal.

According to the couple’s family, the two have been convalescing in the past years, with Magpantay suffering from diabetes and having experienced a stroke recently, which rendered her comatose for four days, while Topacio was in pain for heart enlargement (cardiomegaly), knee injury on his anterior cruciate ligament, and frozen shoulder.

According to reports, nearly a battalion of police operatives swooped down the couple’s house, fired towards the residence before entering, and when inside, shots were heard.

“As we extend our condolences to the family of Magpantay and Topacio, we share their view and disbelief that the death of the couple was a result of an armed engagement with the police. With their health conditions, the couple, who were roused from sleep, clearly had no capacity to fire or fight back, with hundreds of police surrounding them,” said Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor.

“Thus, the police report on the said incident, weaving the nanlaban narrative, is dubious and highly questionable. The same narrative was also peddled by the authorities in the killing of 70-year old NDFP peace consultant Julius Giron, who was also under medical treatment at the time of the incident at dawn on March 13 this year in Baguio City, together with Dr. Ma. Lourdes Tangco and their aide Arvie Reyes,” he added.

Clamor said “that these killings of sick and elderly peace consultants are direct violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Geneva Convention.” Karapatan also cited the cases of NDFP consultants Randy Malayao and Randall Echanis, who were brutally killed.

“In the first place, these consultants should not have become targets of killings as they should be protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees by both parties. Under JASIG, the filing of trumped criminal charges are also prohibited. However, the recent wrongful conviction of NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon and peace consultant Wilma Tiamzon, as well as the arrest of former peace consultant Alfredo Mapano show how these agreements on human rights and international humanitarian law have been time and again violated,” he said.

“As mentioned by lawyers of the Tiamzons and Mapano, the criminal charges against them are filled with highly questionable evidence and testimonies. Their criminalisation is not acceptable under the CARHRIHL,” Clamor stated.

“The root causes of the armed conflict – poverty, landlessness, joblessness, issues on national sovereignty, among others - will never be solved and thoroughly addressed by these increasing violations. It is imperative that the government’s mad campaign through military and police counterinsurgency operations and schemes to quell discontent and dissent be stopped and that real and substantial reforms, not palliative dole-outs and superficial policies, be undertaken,” he concluded.