The law, which came into force in early June, aims to enhance protection for relief workers in situations of armed conflict and to facilitate their safe access to affected persons and communities.
It specifically authorizes medical and religious personnel and units of the armed forces of the Philippines to display the red cross emblem (a red cross on a white background) for protection against attack.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided technical advice to the Philippine Congress in the drafting of this new law, known as the « Red Cross and Other Emblems Act of 2013 » or Republic Act 10530.
« We welcome this important development, which enhances protection for Red Cross staff and volunteers in the Philippines delivering neutral and impartial humanitarian aid, sometimes in dangerous situations, » said Pascal Mauchle, head of the ICRC’s delegation in the Philippines. « It will also provide protection for the military’s medical services. »
The use of the red cross and two other distinctive emblems is governed by the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005. The emblems may not be used by persons or organizations which are not entitled to do so under international humanitarian law. The enactment of this new law by the Philippine Congress fulfils the obligation of the State to adopt national legislation regulating the use of the emblems and penalizing offenders.
The new law sets out rules for the use of the red cross, red crescent and red crystal emblems, which all provide the same protection in armed conflicts. The law stipulates penalties for misuse of the emblems, for example by drug stores, in the packaging of first-aid kits and in clothing designs, that include a fine of not less than 50,000 Philippine pesos (approximately 1,200 US dollars) and imprisonment.
« The passage of the emblem law is another milestone in the history of the Philippine Red Cross. This speaks well of the country’s recognition of, and respect for, our role as an auxiliary to the government in the humanitarian field, » said Philippine Red Cross Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang. « This also reinforces further the need for all Red Cross workers to be protected at all times as they carry out their humanitarian mission across the country. »
The staff, members and volunteers of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement use these emblems while performing their humanitarian tasks. The emblems are symbols of the neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian activities undertaken by the Movement, which includes the ICRC, the Philippine Red Cross and other National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent organization working to protect and assist victims of armed conflict and other emergencies. It has been working in the Philippines for more than 60 years, and has had a permanent presence in the country since 1982.