KARAPATAN condemns bombings, military operations in Abra and Ilocos Sur

KARAPATAN condemns the intensified military operations in the towns of Pilar, Abra and Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur which have led to the physical and economic displacement of residents in the affected areas. According to reports, the AFP’s heightened operations have resulted in at least five armed clashes between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) since January of this year.

The latest military attacks in the area involved aerial strikes and bombings that have triggered fear among the local populace, as these and the clashes have been taking place very near their residences. They come on top of the harassment and fake surrender campaigns being perpetrated by the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) against mass leaders, activists and other civilians falsely accused by the military of having links to the NPA.

The military operations in these peasant communities have severely hindered local farmers from tending to their tobacco, corn and rice crops. The AFP’s armed and psywar attacks are an added burden on the local residents who are already reeling from the effects of the drought brought about by El Niño. Worse, these attacks, especially the aerial strikes and bombings and the huge number of ground troops dispatched by the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army to a relatively small area reflect a disproportionate use of force and constitute violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). They are detrimental to the rights and interests of the civilians whose daily lives and economic activities have been disrupted.

Karapatan calls for a stop to the ongoing military operations to allow the entry of relief and medical assistance to the affected residents and enable the conduct of psycho-social processing for those who have been traumatized by the bombings and aerial attacks. Human rights organizations and other concerned sectors must be allowed access to the affected communities to ascertain the extent of IHL violations and other violations of human rights in the course of the AFP’s operations.