Rights groups denounce bombing of communities in Abra, Ilocos Sur

Bongbong Marcos’s administration institutes airstrikes in the northern Philippines leading to civilian casualties and the destruction of agricultural land.
Clashes between the Philippine Army and the New People's Army have resulted in deaths and the destruction of farmlands. The locals have called for a stop to all military operations to allow medical assistance.

MANILA – Human rights groups condemned the recent series of bombings in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur and Pilar, Abra.

A news report revealed that at least 137 families of Pilar, Abra fled their homes due to the military operations.

According to rights group Kaammoyo ti Kappia (KTK), the clashes between elements of the New People’s Army and the 501st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army took place in two villages located at the boundary between Pilar, Abra and Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur on April 2. Government troops reportedly used aerial bombing for the operations.

“These bombings, which have been described by locals as overkill, are not only a gross violation of human rights but also a reckless display of force,” said Beverly Longid, national convenor of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, in a statement.

“We call for an immediate cessation of such actions and urge the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bongbong Marcos administration to instead focus on addressing the underlying issues fueling armed conflict. They should uphold CARHRIHL and international humanitarian law,” she added.

CARHRIHL or the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, is an agreement signed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government in 1998, and one of the products of the peace talks.

Longid said that according to eyewitness accounts and videos captured by residents in nearby communities, helicopters were seen scouring around the area. Drones on the other hand conducted airstrikes, she added, resulting in widespread destruction and displacement among communities.

The airstrikes were also confirmed by the Philippine Army. In a news report, Col. Louie Dema-ala said the Army used A-29B Super Tucano aircraft to serve as “closed air support” for the 50th Infantry Battalion since April 3.

Katribu emphasized that the impact of the bombing on the lives and livelihood of affected communities are excessive and far-reaching as they are forced to leave behind their livelihood and other sources of sustenance.

Peasant women group AMIHAN meanwhile said that the administration and the AFP continue to “carelessly and cruelly put civilian lives in danger through indiscriminate aerial bombings.”

“They openly show us that their military counterinsurgency operations matter more to them than the lives of Filipino citizens,” said AMIHAN National Chairperson Zenaida Soriano.

AMIHAN added that the militarization in the countryside is “a crisis that terrorizes peasant communities while wrecking farmlands and the natural environment.”

“Farmers’ crops and fields have already been damaged by the El Niño crisis, for which they have received no support or compensation. The additional destruction caused by the continuous bombings is like the final nail in the coffin for countless farmlands,” Soriano said. The official number of casualties and estimated destruction in agriculture however, remains undisclosed.

Karapatan also said the armed and psywar attacks of the military 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 the IHL [international humanitarian law]. They are detrimental to the rights and interests of the civilians whose daily lives and economic activities have been disrupted,” the group added.

Karapatan calls for a stop on the 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.

They asserted that 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.”

The groups reiterated their call to resume peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP to address the roots of armed conflict and to achieve peace that is based on justice. 

Photo: Bulatlat

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Anne Marxze Umil
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