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Duterte death squad plan just an idea–Palace

President Duterte was just “bringing an idea” when he spoke about creating a “death squad” to hunt down the New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents, according to his spokesperson, Salvador Panelo.

Panelo on Thursday said the government was still “cooking ingredients to find out what will be formed” in its bid to create assassination teams to kill alleged NPA hit men.

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“Let’s see how it develops,” he said at a news conference.

Panelo said one of the ideas being floated was to include the NPA rebel surrenderees in the “antisparrow” teams as they could easily identify their former comrades.

 

Facing retribution

The Sparrow Unit was the NPA’s special partisan group that was responsible for assassinating local officials, policemen and soldiers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Asked whether the lives of rebel returnees may be put in danger if they were made part of what the President calls Duterte death squad, Panelo said the returnees already faced retribution from their former comrades for surrendering to the government.

He said the rebel returnees would be able “to save their lives” by helping authorities find the NPA death squads.

Panelo said the government’s plan for the former rebels would not discourage their former comrades from surrendering.

“No, because they have to choose between the life in the hills [and a peaceful life in society] … and they know their comrades die there and life here on the other side has a bigger percentage of survival for them,” he said.

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Killing with impunity

The Palace official also said the government would not violate due process by forming a team of assassins against the rebels since the teams would only run “after criminals, after people who will assassinate us.”

“We have a situation here where there is a group of men who will kill you with impunity. What do you want the State to do? Just sit idle and watch? We cannot do that. It’s the duty of the State to protect its citizens,” he said.

Asked whether the President had information about NPA units now moving to target government officials, Panelo said: “I suppose. The President will never undertake any measure without basis. He has all the resources in the world to back him up.”

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