Wednesday, March 2, 2011
THE International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) appeals for greater respect for civilians amid conflict situations that are not of their own doing.
The cycles of violence through the insurgency have been prevalent over the years across the country, and it has resulted in casualties and displacement, bringing havoc and fear to affected communities who are not even participants to the conflict.
“The resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines offers an opportunity to strengthen respect for the civilian population in a country that has struggled with armed violence for more than 40 years,” said Jean-Robert Jorda, chair for the Mindanao sub delegation of ICRC.
With the legal system in place, such as the Republic Act (RA) 9851 that defines and penalizes serious violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity, as well as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect to Human Rights and International Human Rights Law (CARHRIHL), must be adhered to by the parties to the internal armed conflict.
“The set of rules are there, the parties concerned should respect these laws. They should not forget the large burden this has caused families,” Jorda noted.
He also said the need to make people of the community know and understand that breeches in the IHL need to be documented for future legal purposes is also important.
Albert Madrazo, communication specialist of ICRC, said efforts have been made to make sure the communities, the government and the armed groups understand the IHL and the consequences that could be brought upon the crimes against it.
“We have visited battalions and have talked to the soldiers and disseminated printing materials to foot soldier under their brigade as well as to civil society group and the people in war as a part of their obligation to the laws provided,” Jorda added.
The ICRC plans to extend its assistance to selected communities, particularly those who are affected in their economic activities, as they monitor the evolution of conflict between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the eastern part of Mindanao.
“We are in the process of reaching out and making plans on how to bring back farmers to their land and continue on with their livelihood,” Jorda said.
In recent ICRC reports, in coordination with the Philippine Red Cross, the group has extended and distributed a half-month food supply to almost 18,000 people of the flood-stricken areas in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.
The same efforts have been made to around 54,000 people affected by flood in Northern Samar, particularly in communities that are already in the middle of the clash.
They also distributed farming tools and vegetables seeds for 3,800 families for their rehabilitation, decreasing their dependency on loans.
Around 600 families of Kabacan, North Cotabato that were affected by ridos (internal clan disputes) were also provided assistance.
Farmers were given more than 40 kuligligs (two-wheeled tractors) in February 2010 to help those who were formerly displaced to once again cultivate their lands.
These machines were handed to farmers’ cooperatives with the collaborative efforts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Armm), along with the Department of Agriculture.
Activities like these will be expanded this year, as ICRC has started providing drinking water through their water-network extension projects to nine barangays that hosted 11,000 people in Pikit, North Cotabato.
The group and other agencies have also facilitated a physical rehabilitation and prosthetic support, where a gait training facility was constructed recently through the Jubilee Center in Davao City.
To improve access to healthcare, the ICRC also continues to provide medicines and surgical items to 14 hospitals throughout Mindanao, as it also finances individual treatments in vulnerable cases. (Carmelle Marie Harrow)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 03, 2011.