Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday said the communist rebels' bomb attack in Masbate using an improvised explosive device planted on the ground constitutes a war crime.
In a statement, HRW senior Philippine researcher Carlos Conde said the use of anti-personnel landmines are prohibited in the Philippines under the Mine Ban Treaty.
"The killing of a labor leader and a football player by an IED planted by the New People’s Army shows the terrible threat such weapons pose to all civilians,” he said.
“The use of anti-personnel landmines, which are prohibited in the Philippines under the Mine Ban Treaty, is a war crime,” he added.
According to Conde, the perpetrators behind the attack are subject to criminal prosecution not only in the Philippines but also in courts around the world.
On Sunday, college football player Kieth Absalon, 21, and his relative Nolven were killed in the bomb and gun attack perpetrated by the NPA. Nolven’s 16-year-old son also sustained injuries from the explosion.
The Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA expressed remorse over the incident, with CPP spokesman Marco Valbuena attributing it to "errors of an NPA unit."
"The entire CPP and NPA express deep remorse and take full responsibility for the untimely deaths of cousins Kieth and Nolven Absalon," Valbuena said.
Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, meanwhile, strongly condemned the attack. “The use of anti-personnel landmines is a violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL),” she said in a statement.
“Not only do they cause exceptionally severe injuries, suffering, and death, [but] anti-personnel landmines also fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants, such as what happened in this case,” she added.
She pointed out that even non-state entities such as the NPA “are bound to respect IHL, alongside the government.”
The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines both have announced that they were conducting a manhunt for the suspects behind the blast.
On Tuesday, three alleged members of the NPA who were suspects in the bomb attack were killed during hot pursuit operations conducted by government forces. —KBK, GMA News