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Duterte: Tit for tat vs Reds who tortured Negros cops

/ 06:10 AM August 04, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Short of waging a revenge campaign against communist rebels in Negros, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government forces to return in kind the alleged atrocities committed by the New People’s Army (NPA) on the island, where 21 people have been killed during the last two weeks of July.

The recent killings started with an NPA attack that killed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon town, Negros Oriental province, on July 18.

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The subsequent killings in the province followed five days later with the assassination of lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who had been tagged as a rebel supporter in Guihulgan City.

Among those who were killed by unknown gunmen was the 1-year-old son of one of those slain.

It is unclear whether the other victims, including a school principal and a former mayor of Ayungon, were linked to the rebels.

Speaking at the distribution of land ownership awards in Davao City on Friday, the President blamed the NPA for the violence in Negros and accused the guerrillas of torturing the four police officers before executing them.

According to him, the policemen had been slashed with a blade and had bruises all over their bodies.

He had offered a P5-million reward for the NPA leader involved.

‘You have gone too far’

“I told my military and the police, ‘Do it to them. Do it to them also,’” the President said.

“You have gone too far … You cannot do it unrestrained, unbridled, uncontrolled … I will not allow it,” he said, addressing the rebels. “I will give you tit for tat. That’s my order to the military, give them what they deserve.”

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The President said, however, that he and the military would not allow surrendered or captured NPA members to be tortured or harmed.

“Maybe we wanted [to] as a revenge. But since we are government and you have to have morals to prop us up. Otherwise, we are no different from the barbarians like them,” he said.

Warning on martial law

The President said he would implement “a more severe measure” to deal with the rebels.

“What is it? You just wait,” he said without elaborating.

Opposition lawmakers had warned that imposing martial law in Negros would only lead to more bloodshed, saying the President’s anti-insurgency campaign had already turned the island into a “killing field.”

‘Oplan Sauron’

They said the violence started much earlier, after the government launched its “Oplan Sauron” against communist guerrillas based on his Memorandum Order No. 32 deploying more troops to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror” on Negros Island, Samar and the Bicol region.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said 87 people have been killed in Negros since the order was implemented in December 2018 after the collapse of the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.

In a July 25 statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines denied that the four slain police officers had been tortured, saying they were killed in an ambush as “armed adversaries of the NPA and died in a legitimate act of war.”

In a separate statement, the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command, which operates in central Negros, accused alleged “death squads” deployed by the police and military of attacking civilian victims in the killings.

New York Times editorial

“They had no bad record. The NPA had no reason to mete [out] revolutionary justice on them,” said local NPA spokesperson Ann Jacinto.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo bristled at allegations that the Duterte government was responsible for the deaths of land and environmental defenders in the Philippines as reported recently by Global Witness, a Britain-based international nongovernmental organization fighting for environmental and human rights.

Panelo was reacting to a New York Times editorial on Thursday which cited the report that 164 environmental activists were killed around the world in 2017, “with the Philippines of the brutal President Rodrigo Duterte taking over from Brazil as the deadliest place to resist rapacious developers and governments.”

He said the New York Times had long been spreading “false information and untruthful narratives on the Philippine situation” under Mr. Duterte.

“The American publication has not exerted the research required of responsive journalism. Neither did it conduct an in-depth independent study on such a delicate subject matter,” he said.

Panelo said Global Witness also failed to account for rebel violence.

Many local officials, security forces, and tribal leaders have been slain protecting their land rights against the rebels who wanted to control the area, he said.

“Necessarily, the President had to undertake measures to maintain peace and order in the affected localities,” Panelo said. —With a report from Julie M. Aurelio and Carla Gomez

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TAGS: communist rebels, Negros killings, Rodrigo Duterte, slain cops, war vs NPA
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