Philippine economy

‘Death squad’ vs NPA will ‘worsen’ existing human rights calamity

Jodesz Gavilan

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‘Death squad’ vs NPA will ‘worsen’ existing human rights calamity


President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he will form sparrow units is a 'declaration of open season against rebels, leftists, civilians, and critics of the government,' according to Human Rights Watch

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights groups slam President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to form a “death squad” to go after communist insurgents. 

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Chito Gascon on Wednesday, November 28, said that while the state has the duty to protect its citizens, it should be “undertaken in accordance with established rules of engagement.”

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

Duterte on Tuesday, November 27, said he will form “sparrow units” to crackdown on New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. The term stemmed from the Special Partisan Unit of the NPA.  

Human Rights Watch (HRW), meanwhile, said that Duterte’s plan will only worsen the existing human rights calamity and that it can be considered as a “declaration of open season against rebels, leftists, civilians, and critics of the government.”

“Given how easy it is for the authorities to accuse anybody of being a rebel or a ‘communist sympathizer’ and declare them as ‘enemies of the state,’ Duterte’s announcement is abominable and should be rejected by Filipinos, human rights defenders and the international community,” Carlos Conde of HRW Asia Division said. 

Conde, however, is not surprised anymore of the President’s plan – considering his alleged use of the notorious Davao Death Squad. 

“If there was a death squad Olympics, Duterte would be on the victory stand,” he said. “Yet his murderous policies continue to make the people of the Philippines the losers.”

This is the latest in the attacks of Duterte with the communist insurgents. In December 2017, he proclaimed the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA as terrorist organizations.

The Department of Justice in March 2018 also sought to label more than 600 people – including members of the CPP – as terrorists. This move was widely condemned by human rights organizations. –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.