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Terror tag not license to kill—CHR

SAN PEDRO CITY—The terrorist tag on communist rebels does not give state forces “blanket authority” to gun them down, according to a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) official.

Rex Guevarra, regional CHR director for Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon), on Thursday said “human rights [exist] whether during peacetime or wartime.”

“There is also the International Humanitarian Law and the principle of commensurate force [to observe],” Guevarra added, suggesting that both sides in the armed conflict should provide humane treatment to combatants already unable to fight or had surrendered.

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President Duterte on Tuesday issued a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups, more than a week after he terminated the peace negotiations.

Human Security Act

In Manila, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, ordered the Office of the Prosecutor General to file “the necessary petition with the appropriate court” to classify the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations in accordance with the Human Security Act of 2007.

A former government peace negotiator said the terrorist tagging was not the end of the peace process.

Miriam Coronel Ferrer, who led the government panel in crafting a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said “almost all” rebel groups in the Philippines and other countries had been called “terrorists.”

Such a label “did not stop governments from eventually engaging these groups in peace processes in order to end bloodshed,” she told the Inquirer.

“Negotiations is a policy option that the next president can choose or that this president can still go back to,” Ferrer said.

What the two sides should avoid, she said, was “warmongering” that could have “long- and short-term repercussions” and harden positions.

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CHR investigation

Guevarra told the Inquirer the CHR was continuing its investigation of the Nov. 28 encounter between communist rebels and government forces in Nasugbu, Batangas, that left 15 NPA members dead.

“We want to find factual basis if it was a legitimate encounter. Was necessary force used or could they (government forces) have forced the rebels to surrender instead?” Guevarra said in a phone interview.

Col. Teody Toribio, a spokesperson for the Southern Luzon Command, said the CHR investigation was “baseless” because the encounter was “legitimate.”

“But, still, we don’t have a problem with its investigation,” he said.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Southern Tagalog region had admitted those killed were NPA fighters and hailed their heroism.

Harassment

Several families of those killed in the clash decried alleged police harassment as they tried to retrieve the bodies from a funeral home.

Two mothers, who refused to be identified for fear of their safety, said it took nearly four days to collect the bodies of their daughters after the police allegedly delayed giving permits to transport the remains.

A sister of one of the slain female rebels said her parents saw “dirty, naked bodies everywhere” inside the morgue, and some were on the floor.

Her sister’s body, with a bullet wound in the back of the head and several more in the chest, was under a staircase.

“What they did to my child is inhumane,” her mother said.

The mother of the other female guerrilla said the bodies “looked as if they were butchered pigs.” —WITH REPORTS FROM NIKKO DIZON, JHESSET O. ENANO AND DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN

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TAGS: Aguirre, CHR, DoJ, Guevarra, Human rights, Terrorism
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