THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday stressed its commitment to adhere to human rights standards even as it vowed to prosecute alleged abuses by soldiers.
The statement is in response to the report of Amnesty International that security forces committed abuses during the five-month Marawi siege.
“We are committed to adhere to the Law of Armed Conflict and respect human rights in the conduct of our operations,” AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.
While they have yet to see the report of Amnesty International, he said that the AFP also needs formal complaints to help them in the investigation and prosecution of abuses in observance of due process.
“Should there be infractions, we are determined to hold the violators liable,” Arevalo said.
In a separate press briefing in Malacañang, AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen Restituto Padilla said they will investigate those who are guilty of violating policies and regulations.
“Kung meron man po tayong mga naging insidente diyan, masasabi po natin na ito’y mga isolated incidents,” he said.
Padilla said that during the beginning of conflict in Marawi, the AFP leadership reminded its troops to respect the rules of conflict, including international humanitarian law and human rights.
As to the Amnesty International’s calls for investigation of the “disproportionate air and ground attacks” in the city, Padilla brought up the challenges faced by the security forces during the siege.
“The proportionality by which we used force was in consideration of all the challenges that we faced which is one, the safety of civilians who may be trapped in the area, that’s primordial, the rescue of the civilians who were held hostage, second; and only third is the safety of our own troops who were in the main battle area addressing these armed groups,” he said.
“We will investigate and discipline those found guilty of violating policies and regulations, which include IHL and HR,” Padilla said.
Even former military chief General Eduardo Año had strict instruction to respect the rules of conflict, Padilla said.
In its report, Amnesty International said that the AFP “detained and ill-treated fleeing civilians, and also engaged in looting.”
The group also called for an investigation into the AFP’s airstrikes if they really complied with the international humanitarian law.
“Their extensive bombing of militant-held areas of Marawi City wiped out entire neighborhoods and killed civilians,” the report read.
Padilla, however, pointed out that the military considered the trapped civilians and other challenges in conducting air raids.