THERE will be no human rights abuses when "Duterte Death Squad," a group that will be tasked to exterminate communist insurgents, is created, Malacañang said Thursday, November 29.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured the public that the government will carefully study President Rodrigo Duterte's planned creation of a group against the Sparrow unit, an urban hit squad of the communists' armed wing New People's Army (NPA).
"I don't think he (Duterte) is joking on this. This involves matter of life and death. You have here a situation of a group killing people. You cannot be joking on this kind of matter so he floats this idea. And then, let the idea develops into something real," Panelo said in a press conference.
"Again, of course, the mechanics of that will have to work out so that it will not endanger others in the course of the operation," he added.
On Tuesday, November 27, Duterte revealed his plan to form an armed group similar to the Sparrow unit, which will be dubbed "Duterte Death Squad."
The government's hit squad, Duterte said, will target suspected communist insurgents who will be seen loitering in public places.
The President also wanted former NPA rebels to join the state's executioners to identify the Sparrow unit's members.
"I will match their (members of the Sparrow unit) talent also of assassinating people. May armas iyan sigurado. 'Yun ang balak ko (They are probably armed so that's my plan)," he said in a speech delivered in Bohol on November 27.
However, Duterte's proposal against the communists was met with alarm and legal questions.
Commission on Human Rights Chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon on Wednesday, November 28, said the creation of death squad is prohibited under the principle of international humanitarian law.
Gascon also emphasized that established rules of engagement and due process must be observed when the government aims at protecting the people.
"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.
But Panelo said the current administration cannot just "sit idle and watch" the communist rebels kill innocent civilians, as well as the government troops.
He added that due process would not be violated, when the anti-insurgency death squad goes after the communist rebels, who "assassinate" people.
"No. Why are you violating due process? You're running after criminals. You're running after people who will asassinate us. So how can that be? You will prevent it nga from happening (You will even prevent assassination form happening)," he said.
"You mean to tell me, kapag pinapatay ka na, 'Teka muna, bigyan muna kita ng due process.' Hindi naman pwede yun. In other words, we have a situation here where there is a group of men who will kill with impunity. What do you want the state to do? Just sit idle and watch? We cannot do that. It's the duty of the state to protect its citizens," he added.
(You mean to tell me, when you're being a target of assassination, you'll say, "Wait, I'll give you due process." That cannot happen. In other words, we have a situation here where there is a group of men who will kill with impunity. What do you want the state to do? Just sit idle and watch? We cannot do that. It's the duty of the state to protect its citizens.)
Panelo, nevertheless, guaranteed that the death squad against the communist rebels would respect people's human rights.
He also stressed that Duterte merely wanted to do everything "to protect his nation."
"As I said, that's just an idea. So let's wait for that idea to be realized. First, the idea of creating an anti-Sparrow unit is just an idea, as of now. He's floating that idea. And some are responding -- others are for it and others are against. Let's see how it develops. What is important to me is the President is doing something to protect us," he said. (SunStar Philippines)