Filipino urged to retract schools threat
MANILA, Philippines — Human-rights groups asked the Philippine president Wednesday to retract a threat of airstrikes against tribal schools that he accused of teaching students to become communist rebels, warning that such attacks would constitute war crimes.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said international humanitarian law “prohibits attacks on schools and other civilian structures unless they are being used for military purposes,” adding that deliberate attacks on civilians, including students and teachers, “is also a war crime.”
Rep. Emmi de Jesus of the Gabriela Women’s Party asked President Rodrigo Duterte to retract the threat, saying government troops may use it as a pretext to attack indigenous, or Lumad, schools and communities in the country’s south that have come under threat from pro-military militias in recent years.
Angered by recent communist rebel attacks on government forces, including a gunbattle last week that wounded five members of his elite presidential guards, Duterte has called off peace talks with the Maoist guerrillas and threatened their perceived sympathizers.
In a news conference late Monday, after delivering his annual state of the nation address, Duterte condemned the insurgents for destroying bridges and torching schools in the countryside.