Karapatan welcomes CHR probe of Tiamzons’ killing, urges investigation of other war crimes

Human rights alliance Karapatan welcomed the announcement by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that it will investigate allegations that National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon were tortured and intentionally killed by the military, adding that it will be doing so in accordance with its mandate and duty to investigate the truth behind the incident.

In a special issue of its official organ Ang Bayan, the CPP confirmed the Tiamzons’ deaths and said that the couple and their eight companions (collectively known as the “Catbalogan 10”) were traveling to Catbalogan City aboard two vans on August 21, 2022 when they were intercepted and arrested by military elements, tortured and killed. In the early morning of August 22, their lifeless bodies which bore torture marks were reportedly dumped onto a motorboat loaded with explosives, and the motorboat later detonated mid-sea.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said that in accordance with its mandate, the CHR should likewise investigate the suspicious deaths of other NDFP consultants and NPA members, among them Jorge Madlos, Julius Giron, Menardo Villanueva, Eugenia Magpantay, Agaton Topacio, Alvin Luque and Ericson Acosta, and their companions, to name a few. In many of these killings, she said, the military claimed that the victims were killed in gunbattles when other reports state that they were captured alive and should have been treated as hors de combat under International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Palabay bewailed that civilians, who are especially protected under IHL, are being increasingly targeted by State forces in the latter’s intensifying counter-insurgency war through indiscriminate aerial bombings and artillery attacks that endanger their lives and disrupt their livelihoods. “The lines that differentiate armed combatants and unarmed civilians are being deliberately blurred, marking civilians as targets of attack and persecution,” she said.

“We laud the CHR for deciding to investigate the deaths of the “Catbalogan 10″ despite the hostility of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to calls for such a probe,” said Palabay. “Investigating allegations of torture and summary execution is the government’s mandate, in accordance with its obligations as a signatory to the pertinent protocols of the Geneva Conventions, under RA 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, and even the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”

“In the Philippine context, the CARHRIHL, in particular,” said Palabay, “is a benchmark on the observance of, respect for and promotion of, the human rights of both civilians and combatants. We fervently hope that the CHR will pursue its mandate and not be derailed by the NTF-ELCAC’s deliberate attempts to belittle or ridicule the importance of International Humanitarian Law to the lives of the Filipino people.”