Lawyers, rights agency weigh in on Absalon case

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Friday called for accountability following the deaths of football player Keith Absalon and his cousin Nolven at the hands of communist rebels.

At the same time, the Commission on Human Rights told the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army that owning up to a crime was not enough to realize justice and accountability.

It demanded greater accountability, following the statement of the CPP and the NPA taking full responsibility for the death of Absalon of the Far Eastern University and his cousin, Nolven Absalon.

Police said members of the NPA detonated an anti-personnel mine, while a group of bikers, including the Absalon cousins, were passing along Barangay Anas, Masbate City last Sunday.

Meanwhile, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez said a mere apology, without accountability, was unacceptable and the rebel group must surrender their personnel who planted the explosives.

“The problem of insurgency has once again resulted in the deaths of civilians and a promising Filipino football player who could have brought more honor to our country,” Alvarez said.

“Justice must be meted out and it is only by allowing the perpetrators to face the courts that would permit the family and the whole nation to begin the grieving process. Until then, the NPA should be considered as harborers of criminals,” the former Speaker added.

Alvarez, the current chairman of the Partido Reporma, also pointed out that "rebellion, which challenges our national resolve, has deeper roots particularly the concentration of wealth in the hands of a privileged few, brought about by a government structure that centralizes power in the National Capital Region. A strong nation requires strong localities and regions as foundation."

It was later revealed that the cousins also had gunshot wounds. Nolven’s 16-year-old son also sustained injuries from the blast.

“We strongly condemn the use of anti-personnel landmines, seek justice for the innocent victims, and demand full accountability and punishment for those who callously deployed the landmines,” the IBP said in its statement.

“Let us be firm and united in banishing anti-personnel landmines from the Philippines and in the world.  Let us work together to uphold our laws and the principles of humanity to achieve genuine and lasting peace in our beloved country.”

The CHR said: “If the New People's Army is serious and sincere about taking accountability for the IED (improvised explosive device) killing of civilians in Masbate — beyond owning responsibility, offering indemnity, and promising an investigation — they should identify all those responsible and surrender them to the lawful authorities to face justice within the court system.

“They should likewise be held accountable for all other crimes they have perpetrated in violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws since they began pursuing this armed conflict.

“As we demand transparency and accountability from the government, we demand the same from the NPA..”

It added: “We continue to condemn all forms of violence that tramples on the rights and dignity of all persons. In this regard, we urge the government to ensure that perpetrators are held to account under existing laws.”

Topics: Integrated Bar of the Philippines , Keith Absalon , communist rebels
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