CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Nov. 21 (PIA) — The Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Northern Mindanao has officially filed the first International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violation case against the New People’s Army (NPA).

Through the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade and the Office of the Regional State Prosecutor, the case was filed Wednesday before the Regional Trial Court Branch 25, the court designated to hear IHL-related cases in the region.

Bukidnon Provincial Prosecutor Rommel Alonto said the case was in connection with the attack perpetrated by NPA members in Sitio Aurora, Barangay Santo Niño in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon on May 28, 2019.

Alonto said the accused are Omben alias Ronron, alias Jhon; Lino Namatidong alias Dahun; Mylen Colita alias Maymay; and Toto Taquin alias Jepoy who are all under the Sub Regional Command (SRC) 1 and 2 and Guerrilla Front 89 of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC).

According to him, the accused subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment the complainant who is a civilian and non-combatant. He identified the complainant as Ramiro Melgo Restuaro, a barangay tanod in Santo Niño.

BrigGen. Edgardo de Leon, 403rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the incident was admitted by NCMRC spokesperson Pia Paraiso. He said it was documented with the witnesses and the victim able to identify the perpetrators.

“Hindi pinapayagan ng IHL na idamay ang mga sibilyan. Sa ilalim ng IHL, ang mga biktima ng karahasan ay entitled na magkaroon ng indemnification. Aside from that, yung mga gumawa ng karahasan ay dapat mabigyan ng sentensyang kriminal,” he further said.

De Leon added that they are preparing more IHL-related violation cases against the NPA under NCMRC to stop their continuous violence against civilians.

“The Army is also covered by the IHL. Our rules of engagement are in line with the IHL. We see to it that our operations conform with the provisions of the IHL. The NPA should be doing the same, all their actions should comply with the IHL,” he added.

Meanwhile, Regional State Prosecutor Merlyn Uy said it is high time for the government to file an IHL case so that the NPA leadership and members who may be responsible may be held accountable under the law.

“We, the prosecutors of the Department of Justice, are here to investigate all reports and complaints of possible criminal violations. By the time we take over a case for investigation, we are impartial because we have to determine whether or not there is a probable cause to support a filing of a criminal case in court. Once we find probable cause and we file the information report, we take the side of the government and represent the government in prosecuting all these offenders to the fullest extent of the law,” she added.