Malacañang on Tuesday said the tragedy that befell labor leader Far Eastern University football stud Keith Absalon and his labor leader cousin Neolven, which the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) took responsibility for, was the “worst crime” that anyone can commit.

The two were killed on Sunday in Masbate City after a suspected anti-personnel landmine was said to have been detonated while they were cycling.

Neolven’s 16-year-old son was also injured in the incident.

“Iyan po ay isang international crime at importante na mahuli, malitis, maparusahan ang mga tao ng NPA na patuloy pong gumagamit ng landmines. Uulitin ko po: That’s an international crime – a crime against the international community. That is the worst crime that anyone can commit, and the NPA is guilty of it,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a virtual presser.

There is an international agreement that bans anti-personnel landmines: the Ottawa Convention or the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, which was signed by 133 countries including the Philippines.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also condemned the incident.

“CHR strongly condemns this act. The use of anti-personnel landmine is a violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Not only do they cause exceptionally severe injuries, suffering and death, anti-personnel landmines also fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants, such as what happened in this case,” CHR spokeswoman Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.

“We stress that even non-state actors, such as the NPA, are bound to respect IHL, alongside the government,” she added.

CPP spokesman Marco Valvuena said “errors of an NPA unit” caused the incident.

“The entire CPP and NPA express deep remorse and take full responsibility for the untimely deaths of cousins Kieth and Neolven Absalon,” Valvuena said.

“In waging a people’s war, the NPA is always reminded to give the highest priority to the protection of civilian lives and property. In this regard, the Masbate incident should not have happened,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro