By KING KRIS PULMANO
BAGUIO CITY — Anakbayan Cordillera urged the government forces to suspend their “intensified pursuit operations” against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Malibcong, Abra to give way for the resumption of classes and the immediate delivery of goods and services to affected residents.
The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier announced the suspension of classes in both elementary and secondary levels since last Monday following the series of armed clashes between the government troops and members of NPA.
As classes are set to resume on March 20, Anakbayan said that the AFP operations may force DepEd to extend the class suspension.
Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera, said parents in the war-affected area are still reluctant to send their children to school due to the said operations.
The youth leader added that the presence of armed elements of the government breeds fear and may even traumatized children in schools.
“How can these children focus on their studies if they know that their schools may be bombed at any moment,” said Bagangan while citing the recent airstrike of the AFP in barangay Lat-ey last Thursday.
As documented by Anakbayan Abra, at least 14 bombs were dropped in forested areas and farmlands affecting 56 families, including around 200 children.
“We are saddened by the AFP’s complete disregard of the civilian population in their conduct of military operations. How can the people live a normal life if they fear waking up every morning to the noise of gunfire and air bombs,” added Bagangan.
“The AFP seems to forget that there are existing humanitarian regulations in the conduct of war that prohibits indiscriminate bombings as it may victimize civilians and their properties,” said the youth leader.
Bagangan cited the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), stressing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines are mandated to protect and respect human rights of civilians.
Part 4 Art. 4 Par. 4 of CARHRIL states that “civilian population and civilians shall be distinguished from combatants and… shall likewise be protected against indiscriminate aerial bombardment.”
“This bombing only shows AFP’s disregard of the human rights of non-combatants. Civilian lives are nothing to the AFP for as long as they conduct military offensives against the New Peoples’ Army,” said Bagangan.
Moreover, the group also stressed the halting of military operation is a important requisite for the conduct of trauma debriefing among the children.
“Failing to cease AFP operations has severe repercussions on the children. Professional volunteers, who are involved in trauma therapy will have a harder time to reach out, even enter the area,” said Bagangan. # nordis.net