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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Human rights watchdog Karapatan has demanded an investigation into the alleged abduction and torture of pregnant communist rebels by soldiers in Butuan City.
The human rights group called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the alleged abductions and violations of international humanitarian law against two pregnant women, supposedly New People’s Army members in the Caraga.
The group claimed that Aurily Havana and Jennifer Binungkasan were taken by soldiers of the 402nd Infantry Brigade in Butuan City on November 3, 2022, and that their whereabouts remain unknown.
In a statement on Wednesday, January 11, Karapatan asked the military to present Havana and Binungkasan, and to recognize their rights under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) as well as other international human rights protocols to which the government is a signatory.
Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said the 402nd Infantry Brigade has yet to state anything about the alleged abduction of the two rebels.
Palabay said Havana and Binungkasan were allegedly taken when they were scheduled to meet two other women NPA rebels on medical leave – Cherilyn Rebita and Jackilyn Egtob, who had been in the custody of the military since August 2022.
Rebita and Egtob were allegedly held without charges in a military safehouse in Barangay Ata-Atahon, Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, where they were allegedly subjected to severe mental torture and their lives and families were constantly threatened for 69 days, according to Palabay.
Palabay said Rebita, who was seven months pregnant at that time, subsequently gave birth to a girl while in captivity.
Weeks later, she and Egtob were allegedly coerced into joining a so-called black operation where they would return to their NPA unit and convince Rebita’s husband and Egtob’s fiancé and brother, both NPA fighters, to surrender.
Karapatan demanded that the government hold the 402nd Infantry Brigade and its commander accountable for violating the Anti-Desaparecido Law and the Anti-Torture Law.
Military to NPA: Stop landmine use
The military in Caraga, meanwhile, accused the NPA of violating international law by continuing to use landmines in the area.
The military alleged in a statement on Friday, January 13, that a landmine explosion injured soldiers in Jabonga town, Agusan del Norte, three days earlier.
In a statement, 29th IB commander Lieutenant Colonel Cresencio Gargar denounced the NPA’s alleged violation of International Humanitarian Law and the country’s law on crimes against genocide and other crimes against humanity.
Gargar said the NPA’s alleged use of landmines has endangered the lives of the civilians and military personnel alike.
According to the 29th IB, the incident occurred after troops responded to information from concerned civilians regarding the alleged extortion and foraging activities by 10 rebels, reportedly members of the Sentro de Grabidad 16, Guerrilla Front 16, Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee of the NPA.
The military said the landmines in the area were intended for small-scale miners in the area.
Troops recovered various ammunition and subversive documents left behind by the NPAs after a five-minute firefight, the military reported.
Gargar said the military operations would continue despite the landmines.
He also called on the NPA to stop the use of landmines and other indiscriminate weapons, and instead engage in peaceful dialogue with the government.
The allegations and counter-allegations come amid ongoing tensions between the government and the NPA, a Maoist group that has been waging a guerrilla war in the country for more than half a century.
The government has been engaged in peace talks with the group in the past, but negotiations have faltered in recent years. – Rappler