Masbate blast suspects liable for genocide — DOJ

June 9, 2021 Hector Lawas 254 views

THOSE behind the Masbate City land mine explosion, which killed two individuals, may be held liable for genocide and other crimes, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday.

“Those responsible for the land mine explosion may be held liable for murder, violation of the anti-terrorism law, and violation of the Philippine act on crimes vs international humanitarian law, genocide, and other crimes against humanity,” Guevarra said.

The explosion killed college football player Kieth Absalon, 21, and his relative Nolven, 40.

Nolven’s 16-year-old son, who was with the victims, sustained injuries from the land mine explosion.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in the region pinned the blame on New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, whom Masbate officers said they encountered in a 10-minute firefight.

On Tuesday, the CPP-NPA expressed remorse over the incident, with CPP spokesman Marco Valbuena attributing it to “errors of an NPA unit.”

Citing the Ottawa treaty or the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine (APM) Ban Convention, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the use of landmines is prohibited.

“That is a crime against humanity. It is a war crime. Pinagbabawal po iyan ng Ottawa Convention dahil ang landmine po eh nilalabag ‘yung prinsipyo ng distinction sa international humanitarian law, “he said.

The Philippines is one of the signatory states to the APM Ban Convention which prohibits the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of APMs to ensure the implementation of humanitarian rules restricting armed violence.

Sorry not enough

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) called on the CPP/NPA and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to turn over those responsible for the death of Absalon and his cousin so that they may face public trial for their crimes.

“Now that the CPP/NPA has accepted full responsibility for the senseless murder, it now becomes their duty to turn over the terrorists responsible for the deaths so that justice maybe served to their families and loved ones,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.

He said that it is not enough that they took responsibility and let bygones be bygones. “The ends of justice require that those responsible must be held accountable for their crimes against the people under the laws of the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.

He said that the public can never trust the supposed internal probe to be conducted by the CPP/NPA because they do not adhere to established rules of procedure and that they have their own brand of revolutionary justice.

Año was referring to mass graves of former communist cadres who were summarily executed by the CPP/NPA in internal purges in the 80s and the 90s as well the murders of former NPA cadres who were summarily executed for leaving the terror group.

“They can turn over the suspects to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) or to their allies in the Makabayan Bloc who are serving in Congress if they prefer so long as they face trial in a court of law,” he said.

Año said that the CHR and the DILG will personally guarantee the safety of the suspects while undergoing trial.

He challenged the Makabayan Bloc to demand the turn-over of the suspects as it is their sworn duty as government officials and as members of the House of Representatives.

He said that this is the least they can do for the families and loved ones of the victims who are crying out for justice.

SORRY WON’T MATTER

The Philippine National Police(PNP) and the Armed Forces leaderships said the NPA apology won’t matter to them as they are hell-bent on pursuing the leftist gunmen and making them accountable for their misdeeds in court.

As of press time, security troops are still conducting follow-up operations to get the guerrillas who were behind last Sunday’s incident.

PNP chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said that on Tuesday, a gunbattle between security troops and a band of heavily-armed NPA rebels believed behind a recent series of atrocities in Masbate province resulted in the killing of three of the guerrillas.

Citing a report from Police Regional Office 5 director, Brigadier Gen. Jonnel C. Estomo, the PNP chief said that the slain gunmen were all believed to be members of an NPA group led by one Arnold Rosero alias ‘Ka Star’ in Masbate.

The Bicol police director said that at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, members of the Masbate City Police Station, the 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company of the Masbate Police Provincial Office, the Army and a Bicol EOD/K-9 Team were on their way to serve a warrant of arrest for murder and frustrated and attempted murder issued by a Masbate City Regional Trial Court against known NPA personalities in Barangay Anas when they were fired upon by at least 30 armed rebels.

The troops returned fire hitting three of the gunmen following a 15-minute firefight. Recovered at the scene of the clash were the bodies of the still unidentified gunmen, some Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) and its components, three M-16 automatic rifles, one M-14 assault rifle, magazines, different ammunition, several war materials, personal belonging, improvised tents, utensils, bandoliers, uniforms and other items.

Estomo said that soldiers and policemen are still conducting hot pursuit operations against the other members of the armed group who were believed to be involved in a roadside bombing that killed Absalon and his cousin and wounded another last Sunday.

PNP Intelligence Group director, Brig. Gen. Warren F. de Leon said that a pursuit operation also led in the discovery of 12 more M-16 automatic rifles and a bandolier with several fully-loaded magazines near the scene of the gunfight.

De Leon said that around 3 p.m. Tuesday, troops also recovered two IEDs believed left by the fleeing rebels in Bgy. Mapiña in Masbate City. Also recovered in the area were one M-16 steel magazine, a defective M-16 upper receiver and a solar panel.

The official said that the first encounter in Bgy. Interior which resulted in the killing of three NPA members and the recovery of their high-powered weapons and ammunition is only about 830 meters away from the site where Kieth and his cousin were killed by the IED explosion and after being shot.

Brig. Gen. de Leon said that the IEDs discovered in Bgy. Mapiña is also approximately five kilometers away from the areas where the two previous incidents occurred. This further bolstered suspicions that the local NPA movement was responsible for the killing of the two civilians thru the use of IEDs and that they were already fleeing when they were encountered by pursuing government troops.

The official said that the IEDs found in Bgy. Mapiña were already without a detonating cord and blasting caps, an indication they were merely abandoned by the escaping gunmen to enable them to easily mingle with the local populace and make good their escape.

NPA CLAIMS FULL RESPONSIBILITY

The NPA on Tuesday claimed full responsibility for the deaths and apologized to the victims’ families for the grave error they have committed.

“The NPA takes full responsibility for the errors it committed when it mounted an offensive against government forces that led to the death of Kieth and his cousin Nolven,” Raymundo Buenfuerza, spokesperson of the NPA Romulo Jallores Command operating in Bicol said in a statement posted on their website.

The NPA Jose Rapsing Command also apologized for the same mistake which claimed the life of Kieth who has been described as a future Philippine football star.

“We ask for forgiveness to the family and the public. Buong pagpapakumbabang ipinapaabot ng RJC ang pakikidalamhati sa kapamilya’t komunidad na kinabibilangan ng magpinsang Keith Absalon at Nolven Absalon. Ang hindi sinasadyang pinsala sa buhay at kaligtasan ng sibilyan ay hindi kailanman wasto,” Buefuerza said in the statement.

The two NPA units vowed to investigate the incident and punish those responsible for the killing of the two victims. With JUN I. LEGASPI & ALFRED DALIZON

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