VETERAN LAWYER SAYS: Death squads will give people right to kill on mere suspicion

By Ador Vincent Mayol |November 30,2018 - 10:40 PM


Illegal and dangerous.

This was the warning posed by veteran Cebuano lawyer Democrito Barcenas on President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to create “death squads” to counter the sparrow units of insurgents.

“Neither the law nor the Constitution allows the President to create hit squads or order assassins to kill people,” Barcenas said in a text message to Cebu Daily News on Friday.

“It is also dangerous because it gives some people the license to kill suspected rebels or drug addicts,” he added.

If no one can stop the country’s most powerful person from creating the “death squads,” Barcenas said there will be a “spiral of violence in our society.”

Critics roundly denounced President Duterte’s announcement that he would form a “death squad” to hunt down communist rebels and their sympathizers.

Killing spree
Speaking at the groundbreaking of the Panguil Bay Bridge in Tubod town, Lanao del Norte, on Wednesday, the President for the second time said he would deploy “assassination teams to kill” alleged hitmen of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

His critics said the plan could trigger a killing spree similar to his bloody war on drugs and worsen an existing climate of fear and impunity.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, doubted the President was serious because, as a lawyer, he knew it would be “illegal and criminal” to organize any group of assassins.

Among the senators who reacted to the plan, only Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, the incoming information and communications technology secretary, seemed to indicate support for Mr. Duterte’s plan.

“Extreme measures [were needed for] extreme situations,” Honasan said, but pointed out that such
measures must be done according to law.

On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte announced that he would create his own “sparrow” group, the popular name for the NPA special partisan unit that was responsible for assassinating local officials, police and soldiers in the 1970s and 1980s.

“They will do nothing but look for idlers who are prospective New People’s Army members and take them out,” he said hours after declaring a “full-scale war” on communist rebels.

CHR hits plan
Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon reminded the President that international humanitarian law required states to use only regular armed forces under strict military discipline to carry out security operations.

“Thus, this strictly prohibits death squads under all circumstances,” Gascon said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Mr. Duterte’s pronouncement affirmed the existence of the state policy of extrajudicial killings against both suspected drug offenders and government critics.

“This new policy will only worsen the ongoing drug war-fueled human rights calamity in the Philippines,” said Carlos Conde, HRW Philippines researcher.

Opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes said Mr. Duterte wanted “to strike fear again into the hearts and minds of the Filipinos by forewarning that there would be another round of killings.”

“Fear is his only way to keep people in check,” he said.

More critics
The Liberal Party president, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, said creating death squads and daily killings were not the solution to the nation’s ills — unemployment, high prices and low wages.

“It will only turn our country into a howling, lawless wilderness,” Pangilinan said.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the President’s order would only promote “state gangsterism and vigilantism” that would add more ordinary people loosely tagged as rebels to the list of victims of extrajudicial killings

“If anything, this affirms the horrible fact that mass murder is the official state policy of the Duterte regime,” she said.

Mr. Duterte only cited the “sparrows” to justify actions by his own death squad for the “mass murder of mere suspects who are not even the target of any court warrant of arrest,” said exiled Communist Party of the

Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison.

Sison denied there were still sparrow units in the country’s urban centers. /with reports from Inquirer

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