Bal­ance of ter­ror

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

THE pro­posed plan of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte to or­ga­nize a civil­ian armed group to be called the “Duterte Death Squad” (DDS) to counter the Spar­row Unit, the ur­ban liq­ui­da­tion squad of the Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines/new Peo­ple’s Army (CPPNPA), has trig­gered con­tro­versy. First to re­act neg­a­tively is the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights (CHR), say­ing it is not al­lowed un­der the in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law.

Speak­ing dur­ing the turnover of mil­i­tary and po­lice hous­ing units in Bo­hol last week, Duterte said he wanted to cre­ate a death squad that would kill sus­pected rebels even loi­ter­ers and junkies. (Junkies mean per­sons with a com­pul­sive habit or ob­ses­sive de­pen­dency on some­thing like drug ad­dicts).

CHR Chair­man Chito Gas­con said pro­tect­ing peo­ple from law­less vi­o­lence should ad­here to the es­tab­lished rules of en­gage­ment and due process.

In­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law re­quires states to use only reg­u­lar armed forces un­der strict mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline. Thus, this strictly pro­hibits death squads un­der all cir­cum­stances.

Mil­i­tants and pro­gres­sive groups are also strongly against the cre­ation of DDS, say­ing this might re­sult to mas­sive hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Even the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) and the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP) hi­er­ar­chy have ex­pressed reser­va­tions on the pro­posed cre­ation of the DDS. Mil­i­tary and po­lice of­fi­cials said its cre­ation should be stud­ied care­fully as it might cre­ate prob­lems in the fu­ture, like those pre­vi­ous civil­ian armed groups that helped the mil­i­tary in its anti-in­sur­gency cam­paign that turned into syn­di­cate groups like the Ku­ra­tong Bale­leng Gang.

The Ku­ra­tong was or­ga­nized by the mil­i­tary and Philip­pine Con­stab­u­lary-in­te­grated Na­tional Po­lice (PC-INP) in the ‘70s in Min­danao to fight against in­sur­gents. But when it dis­banded in the late ‘80s when the in­sur­gency prob­lem was min­i­mized, it en­gaged in il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties like bank rob­beries, kid­nap­ping and il­le­gal drugs.

There were other civil­ian armed groups or­ga­nized by the mil­i­tary to fight in­sur­gents like the Civil­ian Armed Forces Geo­graph­i­cal Unit (Cafgu), Civil­ian Vol­un­teers, Alsa Masa and even the Ilaga Group that en­gaged in fierce bat­tle against the Mus­lim sep­a­ratists in Min­danao in the ‘70s. But these groups later be­came a “headache” to the gov­ern­ment be­cause of mas­sive hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

I can­not fathom what’s in the mind of the Pres­i­dent. Why or­ga­nize an armed group to en­gage in a “bal­ance of ter­ror” against the Spar­row Unit when we have al­ready gov­ern­ment agents? What’s the use of our mil­i­tary and the po­lice and their re­spec­tive in­tel­li­gence units? If this is the case, we might as well abol­ish the AFP and the PNP or cre­ate a law al­low­ing cit­i­zens to pos­sess and carry even un­li­censed firearms to de­fend them­selves against law­less el­e­ments. Be­ing the com­man­der in chief, is this tan­ta­mount to ad­mit­ting on the part of the Pres­i­dent that the armed forces and po­lice have no ca­pa­bil­ity to do the task? Mora man og dakong in­sulto ni sa mil­i­tar ug ka­pulisan. Mahu­log nga mga inu­til sila.

Okay, grant­ing that this will be or­ga­nized, this group will be de­ployed in ur­ban ar­eas to look for pos­si­ble tar­gets. The or­der is kill “sus­pected” rebels. When we use the term “sus­pected,” it is not re­ally con­firmed be­yond doubt. This might be sub­ject to abuse. They can kill any in­no­cent per­son and later claim that the vic­tim was a mem­ber of the “Spar­row Unit.” Just imag­ine the loi­ter­ers and junkies. Maglaroy-laroy lang ka, puwede kang patyon. That sce­nario will be very sim­i­lar to what is hap­pen­ing now in the war on drugs. The po­lice would claim that the sus­pects were “nan­la­ban” (re­sist­ing ar­rest or fired first at them), prompt­ing them to re­turn fire just to jus­tify the killing. But the truth of the mat­ter is that some of the vic­tims were not armed and did not fight back. If Duterte will pur­sue his plan, he is worse than the late dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, who had no re­spect for hu­man rights./sun­star Cebu

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