Bounty raise for killers of Negros Oriental cops means more killings — Bayan
MANILA, Philippines – A militant group has expressed fear that the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to raise the bounty for the arrest of the killers of four police officers in Negros Oriental will lead to more killings.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes said on Thursday that this recent move by Duterte will only worsen the situation in the province.
“The situation is already dire and volatile as civilians accused of links with rebel groups are being targeted by death squads. The spike in civilian deaths came after the ambush of four policemen by the NPA (New People’s Army),” Reyes said in a statement.
“Duterte’s offer of a P5 million reward for those responsible for the deaths of the policemen will only aggravated the already dire situation in Negros Oriental,” he added.
Following the ambush on a police team last July 18 in Ayungan town, Negros Oriental, which left four policemen dead, Duterte offered a P3 million reward in exchange for the “head” of the gunman.
“Bring that son of a b…’s head! That’s okay with me,” the President said in a speech last July 25.
On Wednesday, Duterte raised the bounty to P5 million.
According to Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office Director Col. Raul Tacaca, witnesses have blamed the New People’s Army (NPA) for the recent attacks in the region. This was after a man was heard shouting “Mabuhay ang NPA” following an attack on farmers last July 24.
However, Reyes warned that authorities may be careless in tagging people as sympathizers of the NPA, which will make them likely targets by death squads.
“Prior to the most recent civilian deaths, persons have been unjustly and irresponsibly red-tagged or accused as NPA sympathizers, thereby making them likely targets of retaliatory actions by state-backed death squads. Some of those killed were included in so-called “hit-lists” by so-called anti-communist vigilantes or paramilitary groups,” he explained.
“After being red-tagged as NPA supporters, it makes no sense to blame the victims’ deaths on the NPA. Even the painted wall on a victim’s house saying ‘Traydor sa NPA’ raises skepticism as it tries too hard to pin the blame on one group,” he added.
Meanwile, Reyes warned against a possible declaration of martial rule in the provinces, as he urged government to conduct an independent probe of the killings.
“An independent probe must carried out for all the deaths that have happened in Negros over the past two weeks. A lawyer, two educators and several current or local officials were among those killed. The truth must be known and those responsible should be made accountable,” he said.
“We join the growing call to stop the killings in Negros. Increased police deployment and even the threat of martial law will not likely stop the killings of civilians, not when the death squads continue to operate with impunity,” he added. /muf
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