AFP told to stop tagging NPA rebels as terrorists

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    CLARK FREEPORT – “Don’t call them terrorists.”

    This was the appeal of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales to the Armed Forces of the Philippines whose official reports usually refer to members of the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorists.

    Speaking before some 200 Air Force officers and enlisted personnel in the closing rites for their seminar on human rights advocacy, Rosales said, “I have reservations about the use of the word terrorists.”

    “You don’t usually call people terrorists amid the peace talks,” she said, amid the newly resurrected peace negotiations between the Philippine government and rebel forces.

    She noted that while the US and the European Union may have classified the NPA as a terrorist group, the Philippine government has not. “You can just call them NPA’s,” she said during an open forum in response to one officer‘s question referring to NPA rebels as terrorists.

    Rosales said she is now focused on breaking two “distorted concepts” about the CHR. “One is that those in left tend to think that only they understand human rights, and the other is that the military identifies human rights people with the left and therefore adversary.”

    “We are breaking this distorted version of human rights,” she said, while stressing that the military nevertheless has a “double” responsibility in upholding such rights as “the state agency tasked to expedite and uphold human rights.”

    The military, she said, should stop looking as human rights as a hindrance to the performance of their duties, but rather “as an essence of your duty.”

    Rosales said that while she also recognizes the human rights violations being committed by other forces, such as those by the NPA, as she cited the use of land mines and bombing of cellular communications stations, the Philippine military is “under stricter scrutiny” on human rights issues.

    She noted that while communist rebels “have no official accountability to the people”, those in the military are bound by the Constitution to protect the people’s rights.

    This, even as Rosales thanked police and military leaders under the Aquino administration for their “cooperation” in the CHR’s investigations into human rights cases, including that of botanist Leonard Co who was killed allegedly in a crossfire between the military and NPA rebels in Leyte last November.

    Rosales said both the police and military have been transparent in the information they have been providing the CHR which is now nearing its conclusion of its probe on Co’s case.

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