Karapatan urges CHR to investigate killing of NDFP consultant Pedro Codaste

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The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) must investigate the death of 72-year-old National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Pedro Codaste, human rights watchdog Karapatan urged on Wednesday, following allegations that Codaste was possibly abducted and tortured before he was killed — contrary to the military’s claims that the NDFP consultant was killed in a supposed armed encounter between government troops and the New People’s Army (NPA).

“Slain NDFP consultant Pedro Codaste was 72 years old and, like many people his age, was reportedly afflicted with various illnesses. This alone puts into question the military’s story that he was killed in an alleged gunfight — and it is appalling that a killing of an ailing and elderly person, without any capacity to fight back, is celebrated. Codaste’s death should be urgently investigated by independent bodies such as the CHR, in recognition of previously signed agreements on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay urged.

The 4th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Eastern Mindanao Command commended its forces for killing Codaste and his companion identified only as Ka Globe/Sandro, after a supposed encounter between the 16th Infantry Battalion and the NPA in Bukidnon on January 21.

However, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), asserted in its statement, that based on reports of the NPA unit in the area, no such incident transpired on that day, and Codaste could have been possibly abducted and tortured, then killed between January 19 and 25, after communications with him were cut since January 19. The NDFP consultant was reportedly staying in a house somewhere in Bukidnon since August 2021 while recovering from various ailments.

Palabay recalled that the NPA’s 72-year-old National Operational Command Spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos and his medical aide, both unarmed and were on their way to seek medical treatment for Madlos, were ambushed on October 29 last year in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. NDFP consultants Agaton Topacio, Eugenia Magpantay, and Reynaldo Bocala — all senior citizens and with illnesses — were shot dead in the course of police operations with the same “nanlaban” narrative. Randy Malayao and Randall Echanis, also peace consultants, were murdered by suspected State agents.

In December 2021, there were also reports on the possible alleged torture and killing of Menandro “Ka Bok” Villanueva, allegedly national commander of the NPA, after he and a companion, Sandra Reyes, were captured.

“Previously signed agreements in the peace process between the Philippine government and the NDFP should always be adhered to and upheld. The alleged torture and killing of Codaste and other peace consultants constitute grave violations of the right of persons amid armed conflict, as well as the rights of persons hors de combat, or combatants who are in no capacity to fight back, in the case of Villanueva. We call on the CHR to conduct investigations and assist the families of those violated to seek justice,” the Karapatan official concluded.