The Armed Forces of the Philippines Center for Law of Armed Conflict (AFPCLOAC) slammed communist terrorists for detonating three anti-personnel mines (APMs) in Jipapad, Eastern Samar on July 7, killing three soldiers and wounding several militiamen.
“APMs (are) prohibited under international humanitarian law (IHL) and RA (Republic Act) 9851 (Philippine domestic IHL) as it kills and can kill civilian non-combatants even if it is command-detonated. Even non-state actors should comply with the IHL,” AFPCLOAC Director, Brig. Gen. Joel Alejandro Nacnac, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Nacnac said this effectively nullified claims of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) that the APMs they used in the ambush are not a prohibited weapon under the Ottawa Treaty or any other international treaties because they are a command-detonated explosive.
During the incident, the victims were unarmed while walking towards their newly constructed detachment in Sitio Cabatas, Barangay 4 in Jipapad town.
“Since they were unarmed and (had) no capacity to fight, they ceased to be combatants, hence they are protected by IHL,” Nacnac said.
Improvised explosive devices, a form of prohibited APM, are one of the main causes of casualties among military forces. They cause significant numbers of casualties among civilians, block life-saving humanitarian aid, and continue to hinder the political, social, and economic development of the country.
“There are rules that govern their legal use: they must be detectable, equipped with self-destruct mechanisms, deployed only in fenced-off and clearly marked areas, and they must not contain anti-handling devices. In a nutshell, this means anti-personnel mines can amount to war crimes where they are used indiscriminately or cause unnecessary suffering,” he said.
APMs can also cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering to the victims, hence their use is penalized as a war crime under Section 4 (c) of RA 9851, which provides that weapons, projectiles, materials, and methods of warfare that are of nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering or which are inherently indiscriminate in violation of the international law of armed conflict.
Nacnac added that the IHL provides that any armed group, whether state forces or non-state armed groups (NSAGs) are mandated by the IHL to observe the humanitarian law of providing medical treatment and care to the sick and wounded.
In the Jipapad incident, after the blast that incapacitated the soldiers and members of the CAFGU Active Auxilliary, the communist terrorists subjected the victims to a burst of fires to “finish them” and abandoned them without even checking for any survivors who need medical treatment.
According to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the Amended Protocol II strengthened existing rules on the use of mines, booby traps, and other devices. It is provided therein that APMs must be placed in clearly marked and protected minefields or be equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms that disarm and render the mine unusable after a certain period.
In places where there are non-international armed conflicts, such as the Philippines, particular care should be taken to minimize their effects as the group that is most at risk in this situation are the locals in the affected areas who are performing their daily activities for them to feed their families and soldiers who are just doing humanitarian activities.
Using APMs as a method of warfare is deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects, which is, therefore, a violation of the Convention on the Prohibition or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons and its Amended Protocol II, the Ottawa Convention, the Oslo Diplomatic Conference on an International Total Ban on APM, IHL, and RA 9851.
“The NPA’s claim that the use of command-detonated APM in their ambush activities killing unsuspecting members of the AFP/PNP (Philippine National Police) and civilians using APM is not a violation of IHL is blatantly wrong. Intentional killing is prohibited by the Constitution, the Philippine Revised Penal Code, IHL, and RA 9851 on willful killings, except in self-defense and when there is a court order,” Nacnac said.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)