MANILA – International non-government organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday accused President Rodrigo Duterte of encouraging war crimes.
The New York-based human rights organization slammed Duterte for encouraging war crimes by adopting an “anything goes” approach in his order to the police and the military in fighting communist rebels.
The president said, having collateral damage during counterinsurgency operations may be inevitable.
“Anything goes and I will allow the police and the military this time to use all available assets. Use them. You've already saw some of them, I asked them to show it to the public. Use them. Use the rockets. If there's more, sorry,” Duterte said yesterday.
In a statement, HRW Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde said, Duterte’s orders to the military and the police to wage an all-out war against the communist rebels may result in the loss of civilian lives.
“International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, rejects the ‘anything goes’ approach to warfare and places specific restraints on all parties to an armed conflict to spare civilians and other non-combatants the horrors of war,” Conde said.
“Armies must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians. Attacks against lawful targets cannot be indiscriminate or cause civilian loss greater than the expected military gain. Were the Philippine military to ‘flatten the hills’ without regard to civilian loss of life and property, those involved would be committing war crimes.”
Conde noted that the Philippine military has committed violations of the laws of war by failing to distinguish between rebel fighters and civilians.
"Many farmers and indigenous group members have been targets of attacks," he said.
He also drew parallels between Duterte’s counterinsurgency orders and his war on drugs.
“Duterte’s counterinsurgency rhetoric is frighteningly reminiscent of his praise and encouragement for police killings of suspected drug users and drug dealers, which has instigated unlawful force and incited violence,” Conde said.
“He should promptly make clear to the armed forces that counterinsurgency operations are constrained by law, and that those who violate them, from the lowliest private to the commander-in- chief, will be held to account.”