Terms of engagement
MY FOUR CENTAVOS - Dean Andy Bautista (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2015 - 12:00am

This week’s column title seems appropriate for the occasion we are celebrating today. Ironically, what we will be discussing is not love but war. The video showing the “heartless” summary killing of a wounded SAF officer has gone viral. The latter has been positively identified by his brother as PO1 Joseph Sagonoy of the 55th SAF Company. The identity of the person responsible for uploading the six minute footage is immaterial at this point provided that the same is authentic and unaltered. If so proven, then an actionable wrong has been committed under the rules on armed conflict. Worse, it is a clear violation of the basic norms of human morality and decency.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) which forms part of public international law provides a legal framework for acceptable conduct in situations of armed conflict and occupation.  Also known as the laws of war, it primarily seeks to limit the impact on persons who are not, or are no longer, participating in hostilities. While public international law is, strictly speaking, only applicable to state parties, IHL is noteworthy as it covers non-state armed groups as well.  It is applicable whether or not a party was justified in using force pursuant to jus ad bellum (Latin for “right to war”) principles.

The pertinent IHL treaties include the 1907 Hague Regulations, four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. IHL classifies armed conflicts as international armed conflict (IAC) or non-international armed conflict (NIAC).  We obviously have a case of the latter. The classification is important as it determines the set of rules to be applied. There are approximately 600 treaty rules applicable to an IAC (found mainly in the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I) but only 30 for a NIAC (focused mainly in the common Article III to the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II). This poses a challenge as most contemporary conflicts are NIAC in character. Customary international law provides guidance when the rules are silent or insufficient.

IHL seeks to strike a balance between military necessity and humanitarian considerations. The latter provide for rules to help alleviate suffering and save lives as well as the responsibility to treat humanely and respectfully each individual.  

Some of us think that during times of war, anything goes. In reality, that may be the case. But that is not how it should be. While combatants are allowed to kill, they should not over kill, particularly those who are already helpless or not directly involved in the conflict. Not only does every great religion believe this basic tenet, every normal, decent human being should practice it as well. But I guess not everyone is normal. Nor decent.

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Valentine’s Day: Just like love sometimes, the history of Valentine’s day is clouded with mystery. As with most Christian holidays, Valentine’s Day had a pagan origin. Its roots can be traced to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually in mid-February. By declaring Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in 496 AD, Pope Gelasius I tried to capitalize on the new holiday as a mechanism to attract non-believers into Christianity.

As to which St. Valentine the early Pope wished to honor remains unclear. Apparently, there were already three Christian saints by that name at that time – a priest in Rome, a bishop in Terni and a third who was killed in Africa.  Supposedly (but difficult to believe), all three Valentines were martyred on Feb. 14. But most church scholars believe that the holiday was named after the Roman priest who earned the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II for secretly marrying soldiers whom the Emperor believed were better off staying as bachelors.  In the tele-novela version, the imprisoned future saint supposedly fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and legend has it that before being executed, he wrote her a letter signed “from your Valentine.” The more plausible story is that he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.    

In 1969, the Catholic Church removed the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable from its liturgical calendar.  St. Valentine became one of the casualties.  However, the Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orhodox Churches continue to celebrate his feast day.

The eros (passionate love) side of Valentines was supposedly started by Geoffrey Chaucer (of Canterbury Tales fame) in 1381.  He composed a poem in honor of the engagement between Richard II and Anne of Bohemia where he wrote “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”  Hence, the term “love birds” was born.  

But as with other holidays, the entities most responsible for popularizing and commercializing Valentines Day is Hallmark and other greeting card companies. According to the Greeting Card Association of America, 25% of all cards sent each year are in relation to this day of hearts. 

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Today in history: Ten years ago, seven people were killed and 151 wounded in a series of bombings orchestrated in the cities of Makati, Davao and General Santos by suspected al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. We honor the memory of the victims. For gangster movie buffs, in 1929, six rivals of Chicago mobster Al Capone were gunned down in what was dubbed as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Forty years ago, the Philippine Heart Center along East Avenue, Quezon City was inaugurated. Can you guess why this day was chosen?  

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Greetings: Several celebrities are celebrating their birth anniversary today. Best wishes to Kris Aquino, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Monetary Board member Val Araneta and brave ANC broadcaster Karmina Constantino-Torres.  

The Kalaw and Katigbak clans of Lipa, Batangas will mark the 103 birth anniversary of former Senator and Girl Scouts of the Philippines founder Maria Kalaw Katigbak.

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“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.” –  Albert Camus


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Email: deanbautista@yahoo.com


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