The Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) on Tuesday expressed remorse over the deaths of Far Eastern University footballer Kieth Absalon and his cousin Nolven Absalon, who were killed by a land mine planted by the rebels.
In a Twitter post, CPP spokesman Marco Valvuena said “errors of an NPA unit” led to the incident on Sunday in Masbate City.
“The entire CPP and NPA express deep remorse and take full responsibility for the untimely deaths of cousins Kieth and Neolven Absalon,” Valvuena said later in a statement. “There is no justification for the aggravation this has caused the Absalon family.”
The deaths “should not have happened,” he added, and said the CPP-NPA was conducting an internal probe over the incident.
“The lessons that will be drawn should guide the NPA to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future and strengthen its resolve to serve and defend the people,” the statement added.
At least three NPA members suspected of being involved in the blast were killed in a firefight with pursuing government troops, authorities reported Monday.
National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. said the gun battle happened around 5:30 a.m. with joint elements of the Scout Platoon 91D and Philippine National Police facing around 30 NPA fighters under the command of Arnold Rosero.
Police Lt. Col. Steve N. Dela Rosa, Chief of the Masbate City Police Station (MCPS), confirmed the encounter, which lasted around 15 minutes. The communist rebels left around a dozen high-powered rifles, and they were still being pursued as of press time, he said.
The policemen were also serving warrants of arrests for murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder issued by the Masbate Regional Trial Court against members of the armed group, Dela Rosa said.
Malacañang said on Tuesday members of the NPA responsible for planting the anti-personnel mines in Masbate are guilty of committing an international crime and must be punished.
“That is an international crime, and it is important to apprehend, investigate, and punish NPA members who continue to use landmines,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. Willie Casas and Rio N. Araja
The 21-year-old Absalon, his cousin Nolven, 40, and the latter’s 16-year-old son were riding their bikes along Purok 4, Barangay Anas in Masbate City when the blast happened around 6:45 a.m. Sunday.
Only Nolven’s son survived the blast from the improvised explosive device.
The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines both have announced that they were conducting a manhunt for the suspects behind the blast.
“CHR strongly condemns this act,” spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement. “The use of anti-personnel landmines is a violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).”
“Not only do they cause exceptionally severe injuries, suffering, and death, [but] anti-personnel landmines also fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants, such as what happened in this case,” she added.
De Guia underscored that even non-state entities such as the NPA “are bound to respect IHL, alongside the government.” Citing the Ottawa treaty or the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine (APM) Ban Convention, Roque said the use of landmines is prohibited under international laws.
“That is a crime against humanity. It is a war crime. Landmines violate the principle of distinction under the International Humanitarian Law,” he said.
The Philippines is one of the signatory states to the APM Ban Convention, which prohibits the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of APMs to ensure the implementation of humanitarian rules restricting armed violence.
Roque said the NPA members behind the blast should be held accountable.