Balance of terror
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