AFP renews commitment to Int'l Humanitarian Law

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reaffirmed its vows to adhere to the International Humanitarian Law, a set of rules which seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict, in celebration of the IHL Day on Wednesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

"We will continue to carry out our duties and responsibilities to protect our citizens caught in the middle of armed conflict and assure total respect to their human rights as stipulated in the International Humanitarian Law," said Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, AFP Chief of Staff.

Also referred to as the Law of Armed Conflict, the IHL is a branch of international law which regulates the conduct of war. A violation of the IHL constitutes a war crime.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is considered the "guardian and promoter" of the IHL, said a major part of the law is contained in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 formed after  World War II.

These are the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field; the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea; The Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; and the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

The Philippines is party to the Four Geneva Conventions and accepts direct responsibility for the application of IHL.

The theme for this year's IHL Day was "Preserving Human Dignity in Times of Armed Conflict: A Shared Human Responsibility."

According to Captain Jonathan Zata, chief of the AFP public affairs office, relevant activities were prepared for the month of August to advance the understanding of key AFP personnel and stakeholders on the principles of IHL.

It includes a webinar on IHL; a talk show with regional commanders and the Chief of the AFP Human Rights Office; and a symposium with the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, state prosecutors, and members of the media.

Last month, the AFP also signed a Terms of Reference detailing high-level talks with the ICRC in the Philippines aimed at discussing and providing courses of action on IHL issues.

Meanwhile, the AFP condemned the communist groups in the country "for its continued atrocities against civilians and non-combatants."

Zata said the AFP has recorded a total of 104 IHL and human rights violations committed by various communist groups from January to June 2020.

Among the violations, Zata said, include the use of improvised explosive device (IED), recruitment of minor combatants, and attack on humanitarian activities, schools, civilians and their property.

"We join every Filipino in their call for just and lasting peace, an end to decades-old violence, and the complete victory against the New People's Army and its front organizations that continue to exploit and put the lives of innocent people at risk," Gapay said. 

The national observance of the IHL Day is pursuant to Executive Order No. 134 signed in 1999.