Bombings, other IHL violations to escalate as BBM unveils NSP 2023-2028

Photo from Amihan

August 15, 2023

The issuance by Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the National Security Policy (NSP) 2023-2028 bodes ill for the people’s human rights and signals the further escalation of bombings and other grave violations of international humanitarian law (IHL).

Already, the issuance of the NSP, whose avowed purpose is to “address national security challenges” using the “whole of government approach” is sure to impact the proposed national budget for 2024, as Marcos Jr. has directed all government agencies to create programs aligned with the NSP. Education Department Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte had likely anticipated the issuance of the NSP when she demanded a whopping P150 million in confidential funds for her department, with the claim that “Education is intertwined with national security.” Taking the cue, the delivery of many other basic services will be mangled as well as other departments will be “intertwining” their programs with the requisites set down by the NSP.

The NSP will no doubt be invoked by the AFP to justify the intensification of the counter-insurgency war, especially in the countryside, using increasingly destructive means such as aerial bombings and artillery shelling of suspected NPA strongholds. The areas targeted for bombing or shelling, however, are invariably civilian residential or production areas, thus causing not only fear and anxiety among the people but wreaking havoc on their livelihoods and daily production routines.

One need only to consider the case of several hinterland villages of Guihulngan, Negros Occidental which were subjected to artillery shelling last August 5, 2023 by the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army for one and a half hours. The military shelled the villages from 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., hitting a forested area along the boundary of Barangays Nagsaha, Villegas, Magsaysay and Imelda where local residents maintained vegetable farms. Residents could not check on their vegetable crops and farm animals in the targeted area, for fear of another round of shelling.

The shellings, which are a blatant violation of IHL, form part of a bigger military operation in the villages involving not only the 62nd IBPA but the 7th Regional Mobile Force Battalion of the Philippine National Police.

In yet another incident, residents of Barangays Gawaan and Poswoy in Balbalan, Kalinga have been unable to see to the irrigation of their rice terraces due to the 5th Infantry Division’s indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery firing that intensified last March followed by the massive entry of ground troops into their villages. In Gawaan, residents could not visit their upland farms and coffee groves, thus losing their annual coffee harvest and cash income. In Poswoy, intensified counter-insurgency operations since May have prevented farmers from tending their rice fields, thus leading to the loss of at least 25% of their wet-rice crops and at least 50% of their dry-rice harvests. Many have also lost their primary cash crop, bananas. The 5th ID also tried to prevent members of a relief mission from providing food aid to the villagers.

Karapatan has documented up to 6,931 victims of aerial bombings and artillery strikes in the first year of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s rule. This figure is set to rise as the Guihulngan and Balbalan residents’ grim experience is bound to be replicated in many other villages across the country with the military and the police going on a rampage, spurred by their commander in chief Marcos Jr.’s latest counter-insurgency directive.

Karapatan calls on all freedom-loving peoples here and abroad to demand a stop to the bombings of civilian communities and production areas in the countryside and other grave violations of international humanitarian law.