The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spearheaded Monday, August 9, the celebration of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Month with a vow to uphold the law of armed conflict amid the challenges of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr., AFP Chief of Staff, emphasized the importance of protecting and ensuring that the rule of law will prevail especially in times of armed conflict. The IHL Day is celebrated on August 12 of every year while the month of August is considered as the IHL Month.
“The rules of IHL should always be paramount in our service as this defines us as a professional armed force,” Faustino said in a statement.
IHL is described by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as “a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict.” These rules aim to “protect persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities” and “restrict the means and methods of warfare.”
The military opened the activities lined up for the IHL Month celebration through a virtual ceremony facilitated by the Center for Law of Armed Conflict (AFP-CLOAC). The theme for this year’s celebration is “Upholding the Law of Armed Conflict Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic: Protecting Humanity for Healing and Recovery.”
Brig. Gen. Jose Alejandro Nacnac, AFP-CLOAC director, presided over the virtual activity which was highlighted by the pledge of commitment to IHL by human rights officers and personnel of the AFP.
Further, a workshop was also conducted last August 3 to refresh the knowledge of soldiers in handling protocols on children in situations of armed conflict. Meanwhile, a webinar on IHL will serve as the culmination activity for the celebration of the IHL Month on Aug. 27.
Nacnac, who represented the AFP Chief during the virtual ceremony, assured the soldiers that policies were put in place “to strengthen the enforcement of the IHL within the organization” and ensure the proactive enforcement of Republic Act 9851. The said law penalizes war crimes and violations of IHL, genocide, and crimes against humanity.
He added that new directives were also issued by Faustino to sustain the strict monitoring and reporting of IHL violations by the enemies of the State.
“We shall forever remain steadfast to our ideals and values as a Filipino soldier and as the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Faustino said.
Since 1999, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have been co-leading a government inter-agency ad hoc committee, where the AFP is a part of, to formulate and implement activities for the annual IHL Day and IHL Month celebrations.