Reacting to President Duterte’s announcement that he would create death squads to counter the Sparrow Unit of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), Gascon said protecting the people from lawless violence should adhere to established rules of engagement and due process.
Boy Santos
CHR: Death squads not allowed under international law
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - November 29, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The creation of death squads is not allowed under principles of international humanitarian law, according to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Chito Gascon.

Reacting to President Duterte’s announcement that he would create death squads to counter the Sparrow Unit of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), Gascon said protecting the people from lawless violence should adhere to 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,” Gascon said.

Speaking at the turnover of military and police housing units in Bohol on Tuesday, Duterte said he wants to create a death squad that would kill suspected rebels and even loiterers and junkies.

“They will look mainly for idlers, prospective NPAs and kill them,” he said in Filipino. “I will match their talent in assassinating people. They will have firearms, for sure. That’s my plan.”

Lawmakers, for their part, dumbfounded by Duterte’s plan to form death squads.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said it would be up to the public to interpret “if he was serious or not when he made that statement.”

“Being a lawyer and former prosecutor, I don’t think he was serious because he knows it’s illegal and criminal to perform such an act,” Lacson said.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said forming hit teams to target NPA assassination squads “cannot be done.”

“I’m sure the President will not create one such squad,” Pimentel said.

Sen. Grace Poe wanted to find out in what context Duterte made such a pronouncement as it was “alarming.”

“Sometimes the President makes such kind of statements, but we all know that we have laws and we know that in any situation, we have legal processes,” Poe said.

A howling, lawless wilderness

Sen. Francis Pangilinan warned that forming such death squads would lead to “daily killings” that would not solve the country’s problems.

“It will not create more jobs for the ordinary citizen. It will not lower the prices of basic goods. It will not increase incomes and wages of the worker. It will only turn our country into a howling, lawless wilderness,” Pangilinan said.

“Creating death squads, sowing violence and daily killings is not a solution to our nations ills, it is part of the problem,” he said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Duterte’s plan to create death squads was meant to strike fear, deceive the International Criminal Court (ICC) and divert public attention from major issues in his administration.

“He is doing this because he feels that he is losing his grip on power and that fear is his only way to keep people in check,” Trillanes said.

He said Duterte wants to deceive the ICC into believing that since it is only now that he is planning to create a death squad, meaning he is not responsible for the death squads going around killing thousands of Filipinos all over the country the past two and a half years.

“As to the ICC, obviously such deceptive tactics by Duterte won’t work,” Trillanes added.

“Third, Duterte wants to divert the attention of the media and the public from the mysterious MOUs (memorandums of understanding) entered into with China; the questionable awarding of the telco to a Duterte crony; and the P11-billion shabu shipment issue,” Trillanes said.

For human rights advocates, Duterte’s statement to form a “death squad” didn’t come as a surprise.

“If there was a death squad Olympics, Duterte would be on the victory stand. Yet his murderous policies continue to make the people of the Philippines the losers. His statement is a declaration of open season against rebels, leftists, civilians and critics of the government,” said Carlos Conde of the Philippines Researcher-Human Rights Watch. – With Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rhodina Villanueva

CHITO GASCON COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
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