Karapatan calls for independent probe into reported IHL violations in the killing of Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos and medical aide

Following the reported killing of New People’s Army’s (NPA) National Operational Command Spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos and his medical aide Eighfel Dela Peña, human rights watchdog Karapatan called for an independent and impartial investigation to determine the actual circumstances of their deaths, given initial reports which point to possible and brazen violations of international humanitarian law in the incident — particularly the rights of persons hors de combat as well as the protection of medical personnel in armed conflict.

“Contrary to the military’s claim that ‘Ka Oris’ was killed in an airstrike and firefight between the NPA and government troops, initial reports on the incident aver that he was ambushed along with his medical aide. Attacking and killing medical personnel as well as persons hors de combat — such as sick combatants who do not have any capacity to engage in hostilities — are dastardly war crimes. We press for an independent and impartial investigation into this incident,” Karapatan Secretary Cristina Palabay stated.

According to the 403rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID), Madlos and Dela Peña were two of the casualties in a 30-minute armed encounter between the military and the rebels in Brgy. Dumalaguing in Impasugong, Bukidnon on Saturday, October 30, 2021. Madlos has been reported killed several times in the past only to show up alive later, casting doubts on their report — but Major General Romeo S. Brawner Jr., commander of the 4th ID, positively identified Madlos as one of the casualties in the alleged firefight as they presented a supposed photo of the slain rebel.

In initial reports last Sunday, October 31, Communist Party of the Philippines Chief Information Officer Marco Valbuena confirmed their deaths but under different circumstances: the two were ambushed on Friday, October 29, while they were riding a motorcycle along the road between the Impasug-ong town proper and the national highway at around 8 p.m., on their way to seek medical treatment, according to Maria Malaya, Madlos’ wife and spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Northeast Mindanao. Madlos and Dela Peña were both unarmed, Valbuena said.

While Valbuena also said that whether Madlos and Dela Peña were “ambushed while moving or were accosted and thereafter executed” remains unclear, he reported that the 4th ID, “to conceal their crime of murdering unarmed revolutionaries,” staged airstrikes four hours later by dropping bombs on the mountains of Brgy. Dumalaguing “to create a false picture of an armed encounter.” Malaya challenged Major General Brawner “to reveal to the media and the public what really happened, to not be a big liar, for only then can he truly take pride in his achievement of killing Ka Oris.”

Palabay stated that, along with international humanitarian law, killing the sick and unarmed Madlos and his medical aide would also constitute violations of Article 4 of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the NDFP and the Philippine government.

“The only way to seek definite clarification and ferret out the truth from the killings of ‘Ka Oris’ and his medical aide is to conduct independent investigations into this incident. Military officials who commit, abet, and order war crimes and violations of the CARHRIHL should be held accountable as war criminals — and serious allegations should not go unnoticed, especially when there appears to be attempts to cover up such violations through staged air strikes and firefights which harm civilians and terrorizes communities,” the Karapatan official ended.