The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) cautioned against claims the New People’s Army (NPA) uses landmines that are banned by the Ottawa Convention as claimed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In a statement, the NDFP National Executive Committee belied claims by various military spokespersons that the NPA uses landmines that are banned by the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.
“There are the tendentious, misinformed and even maliciously distorted claims of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and other entities on the issue of the legitimacy and acceptability of the use of certain types of landmines in warfare in the context of the present armed conflict and in accordance with an accurate reading of international humanitarian law and instruments on the matter,” the NDFP said.
The group said the NPA only uses command-detonated landmines that require a person to be present, observing the landmine emplacement and manually detonating it, usually electrically, upon the approach of a moving target close to the emplacement.
Command-detonated landmines are different from the indiscriminate type of landmines that are triggered by weight, pressure, or tripping of a wire.
“It is the position of the NDFP that the use of land mines and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) – particularly and most especially those that are command-detonated anti-personnel and anti-vehicle types or contact-detonated anti-vehicle types—are legitimate tools of warfare, it said.
The AFP however only generically describes the explosion reported to have killed footballer Keith Absolon and cousin Nolven last June 6 in Masbate City as “anti-personnel mines.”
The military said the NPA is behind a total of 141 incidents of use, stockpiling, transport and production of anti-personnel mines or landmines which have so far caused 224 casualties since 2010.
In its definition of landmines, the Ottawa Convention said that anti-personnel mines are those designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.
“Mines designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle as opposed to a person, that are equipped with anti-handling devices, are not considered anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped,” it added.
The NDFP said that the Ottawa Convention only bans the use of anti-personnel mines that are detonated by proximity to or contact of a person.
“It neither prohibits the use of command-detonated anti-personnel mines nor both target-detonated and command-detonated anti-tank/vehicle mines,” the NDFP said.
The NPA’s landmines are known to target military and police vehicles bearing government forces.
The NDFP bewailed that their enemies are using the deaths of the Absalons to blur distinctions between banned and allowable landmines.
“This present incident and many others in the past are unfortunately being manipulated to blur the distinction between the allowable command-detonated anti-personnel mines, target/contact-detonated as well as command-detonated anti-tank/vehicle mines, on the one hand, and the generally disfavored target/contact-detonated anti-personnel mines, on the other hand,” it said.
It earlier cautioned the public from immediate condemnation of the NPA pending the result of a thoroughgoing investigation the Communist Party of the Philippines promised to conduct on the incident.
“There should be no rush to judgment, presumption or insinuation to the effect that the entire revolutionary movement and entire revolutionary forces are guilty of a criminal offense, negligence or error for which certain individuals may be liable on the basis of a full and complete investigation,” it said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)