The 402nd IBde's dirty war against infants and pregnant women

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

The 402nd IBde under the 4th ID in Northern Mindanao reached a new level of abomination when it abducted, disappeared, and held hostage infants, pregnant women and civilians. In 2022, at least four pregnant women, an hors de combat and a civilian were abducted and disappeared by military agents with the aim of using them against the NPA. Two were able to get out of military custody, while a baby was recovered by her family. Others remain hostage to this day.

The suffering of Roselle Polinar, her husband JR, Cherilyn Rebita (Ka Jan) and Jackilyn Egtob (Ka Jane) began on August 26, 2022 when agents of 402nd IBde abducted them from their residence in Surigao del Norte. Polinar and Rebita were both pregnant at that time, while Egtob was wounded. The raiding team which abudcted them included Armando Rabanes (Anton/Dagat), a traitor turned military agent, and three other military agents who identified themselves as part of “OPAPP,” the now defunct government agency for peace talks.

They did not show an arrest warrant for Polinar, the original target of the abduction. Instead of taking the four to the police station and informing the authorities of their arrest, they were taken to a house in Ata-atahon, Nasipit, Agusan del Norte. There, each of them was subjected to long interrogations. They were told to cooperate and answer questions all pertaining to the conditions of their fellow fighters, their supporters, the location of their units and more.

For more than a month, Polinar, Rebita and Egtob were not given medical attention.

Rebita gave birth in the San Vicente Birthing Clinic on October 10, 2022, and was returned to the military safehouse with her daughter Baby Rhea on October 12, 2022. Polinar gave birth on that day.

On October 28, 2022, unaware that Polinar was being held by the military, the NPA contacted her to ask for assistance for the care of two other pregnant women: Aurily Havana (Ka Lyza) and Jennifer Bi-nungkasan (Ka Laile). Facing threats to her life, Polinar accepted the request of comrades, despite knowing that the two pregnant women will be harmed.

On November 2, 2022, Baby Rhea was forcibly taken from Rebita and handed over to a man named Jonathan. This was the last time she saw her baby. The next day, Rebita and Egtob were released to implement their “mission.” Rabanes ordered them to return to their unit to push others to surrender and steal three weapons. They were warned that Polinar and Baby Rhea might face harm if they did not accomplish their assignment.

On November 3, 2022, 69 days since they were captured, they were brought to a rendezvous along the highway in Barangay Libertad, Butuan City. Military agents took Rebita and Egtob to the area where Havana and Binungkasan would be met. That was the last time the two pregnant women were seen. The infants they would give birth to are now also considered victims of disappearance under military custody.

Protected people

Under international humanitarian law, children and women, especially infants and pregnant women, are people accorded with “special protections” because of their vulnerability. Whatever their status—civilian or combatant—they are considered “protected people” under conditions of armed conflict. Their rights and the obligations of an adversary holding them are detailed and extensive.

In areas where there is armed conflict, a newborn baby is automatically accorded a “wounded” status. Care for them by institutions specializing in childcare must be given way. It is forbidden to separate mothers from infants who are breastfeeding.

It is the obligation of parties involved in the armed conflict to reunite families separated by the armed conflict. It is highly illegal for any power to change the personal status or status of a child’s family.

These are just a few of the provisions that the 402nd IBde and their agents flagrantly violate as they continue hold incomunicado Polinar, JR, Havana and Binung-kasan. Their families can file cases of abduction and enforced disappearance, illegal detention and hostage taking, coercion and intimidation, denial of medical attention, denial of legal representation, deprivation of communication with family and friends and forcible recruitment and surrender against its officers and all involved. All these form war crimes.

The 402nd IBde's dirty war against infants and pregnant women