Our nation has no lack of red-letter days. Each year we commemorate a mixed bag of everything from cities and harvests to mothers and martyrs – and without fail, groups and personalities jump at appropriate occasions, campaigning for every imaginable pet cause.
On other days we laud heroes for their valor and prowess at battle; today we look at the ravages of armed conflict and remember that even wars must have rules and limits. International Humanitarian Law – the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 – recognizes the damage wrought by armed conflict and provides for the protection of its victims. IHL sets restrictions for the conduct of war and distinction between military targets and civilian persons and objects. In 1977, an additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions extended protection to victims of internal armed conflict. IHL Day was first celebrated in the Philippines in 1999 to raise public consciousness on IHL.
Today, then, is such an occasion to jump at.
Sulong CARHRIHL takes this opportunity to call for warring parties, particularly the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front to uphold and observe their decade-old Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
For even with the CARHRIHL, the prolonged armed hostilities between government forces and the New People’s Army has brought about civilian casualties, displacement of communities, destruction of livelihood and staggered economic growth.
Sulong CARHRIHL appeals to both parties to suspend offensive military operations and resume negotiations for the sake of the civilian population, so that a just and peaceful settlement of the armed conflict may be reached.
In these times where collateral wounds of war are seemingly taken for granted, we remind the government and the National Democratic Front of the value of human life and dignity, be the bearer civilian or armed. May it be that the heroism we remember this day be that of those who “faithfully comply” with the rules of war.