Sen. Santiago hits rebels' havens

October 24, 2011 10:30 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 24 -– Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said that if required by military necessity, government armed forces in Mindanao should be authorized to enter rebel havens described by the existing ceasefire agreement as “areas of temporary stay.”

Santiago said that a new Philippine criminal law defines “military necessity” as “employing measures which are otherwise indispensable to achieve a legitimate aim of the conflict and are not otherwise prohibited by international humanitarian law.”

The senator cited R.A. No. 9871, known as the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law.

The new law declares the state policy “to put an end to impunity,” thus echoing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which the Philippines recently became a party.

Santiago issued her statement on Monday after reports that a new MILF attack killed seven soldiers in Basilan and Lanao del Norte, following the killing of 19 soldiers in Basilan on October 18.

“Military necessity trumps any ceasefire agreement. The murder of 19 soldiers could have been avoided, if the Philippine military and police were allowed to apply the doctrine of fresh pursuit. This rule allows government soldiers to cross jurisdictional lines in fresh pursuit of rebel guerrillas who have committed war crimes,” she said.

Santiago said that if the rule against invasion of areas of temporary stay continues to be observed, then the Philippine military would be “so severely hampered in its law enforcement functions that the Philippines would be flirting with the status of a failed state.”

“We don’t have to wait for the next round of peace talks in Kuala Lumpur. Great necessity requires great action to defend the state. We do not need the approval of the International Monitoring Team or the MILF,” she said

Santiago, a lawyer, also called on the Supreme Court to designate special courts in the areas of armed conflict to try cases involving crimes punishable under the new Philippine Act on crimes against international humanitarian law.

“No quarter is given by the rebels, and they have killed protected persons, as this term is defined under The Hague and Geneva Conventions and Protocols. The rebels are guilty of war crimes,” she said.

Santiago said that under the principle of command responsibility, MILF leaders should be held answerable.

“If the MILF argues that the attacks were carried out by rogue or renegade guerrillas, then that would be a confession that the MILF leaders have no effective command and control. In that case, there would be no point continuing peace talks with them,” she said. (PNA)

DCT/jfm

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