MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday it will strengthen its efforts under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), following a blast in Northern Samar that wounded 7 soldiers.
In a statement, DND officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. said that his agency will relentlessly support the "whole-of-nation approach" to the government's anti-insurgency operations under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos.
Faustino said the blast in Mapanas, Northern Samar was a "clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law," accusing the New People's Army (NPA) of being behind the explosion.
He issued the statement as he physically reported for duty for the first time in his new post after being infected with COVID-19 recently.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomed Faustino's statement, particularly his "commitment to prioritize the protection of human rights, respect for international humanitarian law, and efforts to address the root causes of internal conflict."
"The endless cycle of violence, including those perpetrated by armed lawless groups, must be stopped. Violent unrest sows discord on the lives of civilians, which disturbs the peace in communities and prevents them from realizing certain human rights, including the right to a peaceful environment and development—both individually and as a community," CHR executive director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a separate statement.
"We at CHR condemn all violent, lawless actions, including employing armed conflict as a means to an end," she added.
De Guia noted that aside from the blast in Northern Samar, the previous bomb blasts in Basilan and the bombings in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Basilan show that "sustainable solutions to armed conflict" are needed.
Meanwhile, Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos said that he will also push to continue NTF-ELCAC, saying that there is a need for it to be "bolstered" and "reinforced."
He previously said in a tweet that he will recommend an increase the task force's budget in the 19th Congress.
— with report from Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News