The Army's 3rd Infantry Division yesterday joined the growing number of civil society groups, the clergy and local officials in Western Visayas, that strongly condemn the continuous use of land mines by the New People's Army in the region.
“We have had enough of the landmines in Western Visayas and civilians have been victims of the use of this banned weapon,” Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3ID commanding genera,l said.
Mabanta said the rebels violated the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) when they used landmines.
“For the past several years, the NPA continued to use landmines in utter disregard of the CAHRIHL. We challenge the NPA leadership to be true to their word and the agreement they were signatory to,” he said.
Military records show that the NPA used landmines in the ambush of 61st Infantry Battalion soldiers in Tubungan town of Iloilo on March 26. A month earlier, NPA members also used a landmine in the destruction of a sugarcane transloading station in Sigma, Capiz, while a 6-year-old child was killed in Tapaz, Capiz, as a result of mishandling of an improvised explosive device allegedly by the NPA.
Nine land mines were also recovered by the 82nd Infantry Battalion in various NPA encampments in Igbaras and Miagao, both in Iloilo province, aside from those set up near the vicinity of Igcabugao Elementary School in Igbaras, Iloilo, in March last year.
Let us not allow more of these senseless losses of life and injury to continue. We call on them (NPA) to stop using landmines. Spare the civilians”, Mabanta stressed.
Maj. Enrico Gil Ileto, of 3ID, said the use of landmines violates the CARHRIHL, one of the four agreements in the substantive agenda of the formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front-Philippines, which was signed by both parties on March 16, 1998 in Hague. Netherlands.
The CPP-NPA, however, claimed in a statement, that there is no international prohibition against the use of command-detonated land mines in its guerilla war.
It said that NPA rebels did not violate international war rules since they used command-detonated explosives, not pressure-triggered landmines, to neutralize the Army troops. * GPB