Mayor Darion Otaza of Loreto, Agusan Del Sur. File photo from gov.ph
MANILA – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday slammed the so-called ''revolutionary justice'' applied by the New People's Army (NPA) in killing Loreto, Agusan del Sur Mayor Darion Otaza and his son, saying such an act is "plain murder."
Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of NPA's Southern Mindanao Regional Command, earlier justified the killing of Otaza and his son Daryl, saying the mayor was a warlord who committed and condoned injustices against Lumad and peasants in the town.
Dario, a former NPA rebel who had led a campaign against communist insurgency, was abducted with his son last October 19 by armed men posing as National Bureau of Investigation agents. A day later, their bodies were found riddled with bullets.
HRW said NPA's justification for killing the Otazas can never be accepted, saying the rebel group's so-called ''people's courts'' do not meet basic fair trial standards.
''The killing of the Otazas – like other NPA executions – is just plain murder,'' said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
''The NPA's actions and claims of revolutionary justice handed down by people's courts are flagrant violations of international law.''
A Catholic lay minister sprinkles holy water on the coffins of slain town Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, and his son Daryl, during burial ceremonies in Butuan City on Wednesday. Otaza and his son were abducted and killed by suspected New People's Army rebels last October 19. Froilan Gallardo for ABS-CBNnews.com
Robertson said NPA vigilante-style executions should be stopped as these do not support their supposed cause.
''By resorting to vigilantism in the name of justice, the NPA is only serving to harm its own demands for justice for victims of military human rights violations,'' Robertson said.
''The NPA should end this charade of unjust 'people’s courts' and cease all executions.''
The New-York based international non-governmental organization said as a party to an internal armed conflict, the NPA is obligated to abide by international humanitarian law, including common article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Second Additional Protocol of 1977 (Protocol II), to which the Philippines is party.
The HRW said it is prohibited in international humanitarian law to kill civilians, mistreat anyone in custody, and convict anyone in proceedings that do not meet international fair standards.
The said protocol states that criminal courts must be independent and impartial, and the accused shall have ''all necessary rights and means of defense,'' among other guarantees.
The HRW stressed that the NPA's claim that defendants under trial in its people's courts are being treated fairly are not supported by facts. Former UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions Philip Alston had earlier described the people's courts as ''either deeply flawed or simply a sham.''
The killing of the Otazas occurred just as the military and militant groups were exchanging accusations about the plight of the Lumad (indigenous peoples) in Mindanao.
Outrage over the suffering of Lumad communities in Mindanao reached its peak when three IPs, including a school head, were gunned down by alleged paramilitary troops in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in September.
Militant groups said the Magahat-Bagani forces killed the three and had the tacit approval of the military, who allegedly did not thing while the IPs were fleeing their homes.
The military has openly accused some Lumad leaders of sympathizing with communist rebels. Lumad leaders and human rights advocates, meanwhile, are accusing the military of grabbing their ancestral lands to serve the interests of big mining and agribusiness firms.