AFP aerial bombings violate the rules of war

The conventional definition of terrorism fits best in the spate of brutal bombings of communities conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its counter-guerrilla operations. This same doomed tactic is reminiscent of the US war against the Vietnamese people who despite bringing the US and their South Vietnamese puppets to a humiliating defeat, suffer until today from the effects of an array of bombs dropped during the war.

According to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the use of heavy bombs (typically 125- or 250-kilograms each) in counter-guerrilla operations violate generally accepted laws and customs of war which prohibit the use of weapons and methods that cause superfluous injury and death to combatants. These are acts of war that are criminal in nature for which Marcos Jr. and the AFP must be held accountable for.

The CPP also explained that: “In warfare, dropping heavy bombs are typically reserved against heavily fortified military targets, unlike guerrilla camps where combatants are protected only by trees or trenches. In using such weapons, the AFP aims to give the NPA no quarter, or cause the maximum number of deaths and injury, which has long been considered unlawful and in violation of international humanitarian law.”

While AFP aerial bombings have hit a number of NPA guerrilla camps, according to the CPP, majority of the bombs dropped by the AFP since 2017 have missed their targets, hitting instead swidden farms, mountain communities, and fields near civilian populations.

A July 2022 study released by the CPP revealed that AFP bombing only has an 18.44% accuracy in terms of hitting guerrilla targets. Between 2017-2022, there were at least 144 people killed by the AFP’s air strikes. Out of the 144, at least 68 were the AFP’s own soldiers and police, which is more than the 66 casualties suffered by the NPA. At least 10 civilians have been killed in AFP bombings, the CPP study stated.

In condemning these continuing acts of terror, the CPP pointed to the most recent incident of heavy bombing which the AFP conducted last June 16 in Barangay Anticala, Butuan City in Mindanao island. Contrary to the claims of the AFP that there was a ‘fierce firefight’ during the Butuan bombing, there was no actual encounter on the ground between AFP soldiers and NPA guerilla forces, the CPP stated. Around an hour after the strike, the 29th Infantry Batallion (IB) reportedly arrived on the scene only to observe the carnage and destruction their heavy weapons had wreaked.

The air strike in Butuan however was not an isolated case. The non-stop spate of bombings has also been conducted in many other communities in the countryside, namely:

  • October 6 and 8, 2022 bombings in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental province.
  • March 9 and 13, 2023 in Barangay Gawaan, Kalinga. AFP-PNP fighter jets and drones dropped at least 10 bombs. Affected were Sitio Cocodwe and Sitio Utah. Bombs were also dropped near the Gawaan Elementary school while students were holding classes.
  • March 13 and March 15, 2023 bombings in Barangay Culaman, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon province.
  • April 29 and May 8, 2023 bombings and strafings of communities in Bongabong and Bansud, Oriental Mindoro province affecting thousands of residents of Barangay San Vicente, Roxas and Barangay Balugo and Waygan, Mansalay in the same island province.
  • May 11, 2023 bombings in the mountains of Katarungan in Barangay Lobo, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur province.

These documented incidents of bombings by the AFP, according to human rights organizations have resulted in at least 6,931 victims, in the first year of reign of the illegitimate Marcos Jr. regime. The Geneva Conventions explicitly ban weapons that “cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering” as well as means of warfare that “cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment.” Further, Articles 51 and 54 prohibits indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, and destruction of food, water and other materials needed for survival.
By all accounts, the AFP’s aerial bombings, led by their commander-in-chief Marcos Jr., does not distinguish between civilian and military targets, and constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law. #