By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — In time for the 13th anniversary commemoration of the murder of two activist in Ilocos and Cordillera, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and Ilocos Human Rights Alliance slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement to form a death squad to go after suspected rebels.
On November 28 and 29, 2015, death squads believed to be operating under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya killed Jose “Pepe” Manegdeg, Jr and Albert Teredaño respectively.
Manegdeg was a member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Luzon while Terredaño was an employee of the Department of Agrarian Reform office and member of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE).
“We condemn this fascist framework and course of action being replicated and legitimized by the Duterte administration today,” said CHRA.
The group said the two killings are messages from the government “to the people who were critical about policies being written and executed by the State” that “there is no room for dissent.”
In Ilocos, the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance said Duterte’s statement “merely formalizes” the government’s long-standing practice of assassinating progressives leaders and opposition leaders.
“Death squads are integral part of all anti-insurgency campaigns the government has undertaken even before the time of Marcos,” said Mary Ann Gabayan, IHRA secretary general, adding, “this recent development will only increase cases of extra-judicial killings.”
IHRA and CHRA also expressed alarm on the possible effect of Duterte’s latest instruction on the safety and security of the activists named in the Department of Justice proscription petition against the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.
Meanwhile, national human rights group Karapatan called Duterte’s proposal a “sinister scheme to kill more Filipinos.”
“This is an insidious ploy that will add to the number of murders that this regime has already ruthlessly committed – all denied of their right to due process,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
She expressed concern over arbitrary target selection that may include activist and critics tagged by the administration as rebels and enemies of the state.
Palabay said she was not surprised that the PNP and the AFP expressed support, noting that there are already “hit squads” sanctioned by the security institutions.
Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said he wants candidates for this “hit squad” to be processed and qualified while Department of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana stated that soldiers are best fit for the carrying out the task of neutralizing the NPA, complete with clearance from the top ranks of the military.
She said the two office are not given “license to kill” with impunity but additional funds for corruption.
“Duterte and his minions have already killed thousands in cold blood, yet he still hell-bent on turning the entire country into a killing field, adding one repressive policy on top of another,” noted Palabay.
She said the president’s endorsement of death squad formation is “state terrorism” defended by the administration “that has no regard for human rights.”
President Duterte made the statement creating a death squad to target the NPA and “idlers” in a recent speech at Camp Rajah Sikatuna in Carmen, Bohol, a few days after declaring that his administration will launched a full scale war against the revolutionary movement.# nordis.net