The International Committee of the Red Cross insisted that using its ambulances to transport two alleged communist rebels in Surigao del Sur was strictly humanitarian in nature and coordinated with the authorities.
On May 29, three Red Cross ambulances with eleven individuals on board, including two persons who have gunshot wounds, were intercepted at the provincial quarantine control point in Purok 3, Barangay Payasan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Maj. Renel Serrano, the spokesperson of the Police Regional Office XIII, identified the two patients as Jea Angeles Perez, 22, a resident of P-4, Barangay Puyat, Carmen, Surigao del Sur (with a gunshot wound on her right leg), and Noel Dadang, 32, married, who sustained a gunshot wound on his left rib and parietal area.
But Boris Michel, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, said in a statement that the medical transport was needed to provide the wounded individuals with appropriate treatment.
This action by the ICRC, with (the) assistance of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), was in fulfillment of our mission to prevent and alleviate suffering during armed conflict, he said, adding that it is an adherence to the international humanitarian law (IHL) or the law of armed conflict.
The personnel manning the quarantine checkpoint were from Lianga Municipal Police Station of Surigao del Sur Provincial Police Office (PPO) and 1st Surigao del Sur Provincial Mobile Force Company, together with the 9th Special Force Company of 3rd Special Forces Battalion.
They were alerted after receiving intelligence information regarding the transport of wounded guerrillas using a Red Cross ambulance.
Around 10:55 a.m., they flagged down the following vehicles:
1) White Toyota Hi-Ace Van ambulance with Red Cross Logo with four onboard including Noel Dadang;
2) White Toyota Land Cruiser, with ICRC logo with four onboard including Jea Angeles Perez;
3) White Toyota Land Cruiser with ICRC logo with three onboard.
The wounded persons were referred to Davao Regional Medical Center for medical treatment.
According to Michel, the ICRC does not have emergency medical services and only transports wounded or sick persons upon request.
However, he quickly clarified that the ICRC team was not arrested but was only intercepted. They were later allowed to pass, along with some security escorts.
The medical transfer to a hospital was successfully completed, he said. As a neutral organization, we will not interfere with subsequent actions by the authorities that may include investigations or arrests.
However, it is also part of their fundamental mandate to monitor the situation of the detainee.
He said the ICRC has been working in the Philippines since World War II, establishing a permanent presence in 1982. We work mainly in Mindanao, where internal armed conflicts continue to affect thousands of people, to assess and address the humanitarian situation. As part of our mandate, we regularly remind all parties of their obligations under IHL, the statement read.