A former varsity football player and his cousin were killed by an improvised explosive device in Masbate City, Masbate on Sunday morning.
Kieth Absalon, 21 and his cousin Nolven Absalon, 40, were on bicycles with their relatives when the IED exploded around 6:35 am. Both were killed by the blast. Nolen’s 16-year-old son Chrisbin Daniel was injured and rushed to the Masbate Provincial Hospital for treatment.
The New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has owned up to the explosion but did not say whether they used landmines, which the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Watch say would be a violation of international law.
“Not only do they cause exceptionally severe injuries, suffering and death, anti-personnel landmines also fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants, such as what happened in this case,’ CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
The use of land mines is a war crime subject to criminal prosecution not just in the Philippines but in courts around the world.
“We stress that even non-state actors, such as the NPA, are bound to respect IHL (international humanitarian law), alongside with government,” De Guia added.
The CCP and the NPA have taken “full responsibility for the tragedy” in Masbate and declared “deep remorse” for the “untimely and unnecessary” deaths resulting from “errors in the military action mounted by an NPA unit in Barangay Anas.”
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has challenged the NPA to turn over their fighters responsible for the deaths of Kieth and Nolven Absalon if they are sincere in their apology. He likened the situation to the PNP’s act of apologizing for an erring police officer’s wrongdoings, coupled with legal moves to prosecute the cop.
If the NPA is sincere, the Masbate blast should be the last time they commit war crimes and use landmines. In that regard, the public only has their word, which isn’t much coming from an organization that just killed two innocent non-combatants. An apology and a promise to do better means nothing until the NPA leadership does the right thing and surrender those responsible for that operation so proper justice can be served.*