Duterte says civilian killings by state troops may be justified in cases of ‘mistaken identity’
MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered the police and the military to shoot armed members of the New People’s Army (NPA), saying government is now on the offensive following the collapse of peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels.
“So what will be my orders? ‘Di shoot them. Eh they will kill you anyway. So if there is an armed NPA there or terrorists, if he’s holding any firearms, shoot. And tell any... ako na ang magsagot, you just shut up,” Duterte said in a speech in Sual, Pangasinan.
Dutete said state troops must not mind if their acts would be questioned by human rights groups.
“Do not answer if that issue of human rights, you say, “Go to Duterte. It is and was his order.” Para tumahimik ka, sabihin mo,” he said.
Duterte said both the military and the NPA are now on the offensive following the collapse of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Duterte reminded soldiers and police to always be on guard against intensified rebel attacks following the breakdown of the peace talks.
“We are now on the offensive, that is why I said kayong mga pulis, [practice] just a little bit of vigilance,” Duterte said.
He said soldiers and policemen must always carry their firearms even when doing simple errands.
“Itong mga NPA, kawalanghiyaan nila, 'yung mga sundalo ko pati pulis na pumupunta lang sa kampo, lalabas ng kampo, paturay-turay lang hindi naka-uniporme, they are treated like a dog, pinapatay,” he said.
The President said he is even willing to defend soldiers who would be involved in the killing of innocent civilians in cases of mistaken identity.
“Kung balut vendor pala ang binira mo, pasensya, tawagin mo ako at aregluhin natin… Those are what you would call in the law [as] mistaken identity… which is really an exempting circumstance,” said Duterte.
Duterte added that soldiers and policemen can justify the accidental killings of civilians if “in good faith you believe you are being followed by a killer and, by your standards as a police [officer], you believe in good faith that the guy there is going to slaughter you.”
The President had issued a similar assurance to police officers who may end up killing drug suspects under his anti-narcotics war in self-defense, but warned that unlawful slays would not be condoned.
The President recently terminated talks with the NDFP amid continued rebel attacks, adding he would soon declare the group as terrorists.
“I don’t want to start a real violent war, but if the NPAs, just like the terrorists, would do it, then we will give them the favor,” Duterte said.
The President also recently ordered NDFP consultants who were given conditional freedom to participate in the peace talks to “surrender or face punitive actions.”
There had been high hopes when Duterte came to power that peace would finally be achieved between the government and the communists following five decades of communist insurgency in the country.
But such hopes were dashed after the President decided to scrap the negotiations amid what he believes was the communist rebels’ lack of sincerity.
In a major breakout of violence since the collapse of talks, 14 NPA rebels were killed in clashes with government troops in Nasugbu, Batangas Tuesday, the military and police said.
Five NPA guerrillas were killed while two other rebels were injured in Sitio Pinamuntasan, Barangay Aga, according to a Nasugbu police report.
Nine other rebels were killed in a separate gun battle in Sitio Batulao, Barangay Kaylaway, police said.
Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, however, cast doubt whether the 14 slain individuals were indeed NPA fighters, saying human rights groups should investigate the incident.