DAVAO CITY, Philippines – At least 50 people who were wounded in the Sept. 1 grenade-throwing incident in Barangay Fatima, Paquibato district here yesterday received an initial P5,000 each as indemnification from the New People’s Army (NPA) as ordered by the National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao chapter.
This marks the first time that the NPA has ever indemnified victims of such an incident which it earlier had owned up to.
The distribution was conducted in Barangay Fatima by about 40 representatives of religious groups, academe, law and medical groups, the media, and civil society organizations which helped facilitate the indemnification process.
The NDF appointed a third-party facilitator to execute its earlier order for the indemnification of the blast victims who were just watching a traveling circus perform in a covered court in Barangay Fatima last Sept. 1 when NPA rebels lobbed a grenade.
The NPA’s Merardo Arce Command admitted responsibility for the blast and apologized for the incident, pointing to its Pulang Bagani Command as the perpetrator.
“This is a rare event in which the casualties are being indemnified by the (rebels) after (they) issued an apology,” said Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the Exodus for Justice and Peace and co-convenor of the third-party facilitator.
The P5,000 cash distributed to each of the victims yesterday was reportedly just an initial amount, as additional financial assistance would be given out as soon as further evaluation is completed.
“Other than the awarding of financial assistance as payment of damages, the mission also includes psychosocial release activity for children and adults and medical assistance for the identified 50 casualties. The mission started at around 9 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m. in the afternoon at the barangay hall in Barangay Fatima,” Villasanta said.
The third-party facilitator was convened last Sept. 15 by the Exodus for Justice and Peace, a clergy-led peace advocacy alliance, after the NDF’s regional council publicly requested the group, which has previous experience in facilitating the safe and orderly release of military and police personnel captured by NPA as “prisoners of war,” to help facilitate the indemnification.
“Any move that aims to heal the wounds of this civil war that has been going on for decades and that is in compliance with international humanitarian law deserves support from peace-loving individuals,” Villasanta said.
“The best thing that can be done is to help the survivors heal and to call on both parties of the armed conflict to resume the peace negotiations immediately,” he added. - By Edith Regalado