MANILA - The country's national defense and interior departments on Wednesday urged members of the New People's Army to turn over those who were responsible for the deaths of the Absalon cousins in Masbate over the weekend, saying they should be accountable for the crime.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA, on Tuesday took responsibility for the landmine blast that killed football player Kieth Absalon, 21, and his cousin, Nolven, a father of 4, on Sunday morning.
Although, Kieth's death certificate showed the immediate cause of death is hemorrhagic shock with underlying cause as "gunshot wounds & blast injuries."
In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) condemned the "violence and senseless killing" perpetrated by the armed group, noting that the use of landmines is against international law.
"This tragedy is not caused by a mere 'tactical error' as they claim," the DND said.
"The CPP-NPA's persistent use of landmines is a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. It is also undeniable proof of the communist terrorist group's utter disregard for the safety of innocent civilians," it added.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged the rebel group to turn over their members who were responsible for the tragedy.
“Now that the CPP/NPA has accepted full responsibility for the senseless murder, it now becomes their duty to turn over the terrorists responsible for the deaths so that justice maybe served to their families and loved ones,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a former Philippine military chief, said.
Año said the CPP-NPA should be held accountable for what happened and told those responsible to surrender to the Commission on Human Rights or "their allies in the Makabayan Bloc... so long as they face trial in a court of law."
The DND criticized the communists' supposed internal probe on the incident, saying it would "never result in any kind of justice for the bereaved families."
"Such arrogance further compounds the crimes of this communist terrorist group against the Filipino people, which the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF must answer to."
On Tuesday night, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago condemned the NPA operation, and said the deaths of innocent civilians would never be acceptable.
She also called for justice for the Absalons.
"Mariing kinukundena ng Kabataan ang lahat ng atrocities at mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao at international humanitarian law. Marapat lamang ang malinaw na patakaran para matiyak ang hustisya at pananagutan dito," Elago said in a tweet.
(Kabataan Partylist condemns all atrocities and those who violate human rights and the international humanitarian law. Guidelines should be clarified to ensure that justice will be served.)
"Dapat managot ang mga may sala sa pamamagitan ng pagpatupad ng Joint Monitoring [Committee] bilang awtoridad sa ganitong kaso ng mga krimen. Responsibilidad ng lahat na sangkot sa digmaang sibil na protektahan ang karapatang pantao ng mamamayang Pilipino at umamin sa pagkakasala."
(Those responsible should be held accountable through the implementation of the Joint Monitoring Committee, which is the authority in these crimes. It is the responsibility of those involved in civil war to protect human rights of every Filipinos and be accountable for their mistakes.)
The said committee was created under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Law, an agreement between the Philippine government and the communist movement.
But Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya explained over TeleRadyo's "Kuwentuhang Lokal" that the government panel has been disbanded and the peace talks have been terminated, dissolving the Joint Monitoring Committee.
"If there is, ang miyembro na lang niyan ay (its remaining member) CPP-NPA," he said.
Human Rights Watch's Carlos Conde also decried the incident, criticizing the NPA for the use of such weapons.
"The use of anti-personnel landmines, which are prohibited in the Philippines under the Mine Ban Treaty, is a war crime. Those responsible are subject to criminal prosecution not just in the Philippines but in courts around the world," Conde said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Absalon family is demanding justice for the tragedy.
Kieth played for the Malaya Football Club and the Far Eastern University football team.
He was part of the FEU-Diliman Baby Tamaraws that won numerous UAAP Juniors Football Tournament, culminating with a Most Valuable Player award in 2016, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) had said in a statement.
In 2018, he was called up to represent the Philippines in the AFF U-19 Championship which was held in Surabaya, Indonesia, said the PFF.
“It is heartbreaking to see a promising player’s future in Kieth Absalon cut short due to a terrible incident” PFF president Mariano Araneta, Jr. said.
The Malaya Football Club described Kieth as a "brilliant player", a "born leader, follower of the highest order" and, "a kind, gentle and respectful soul."