HRW: Duterte bid to arm civilians ‘another recipe for human rights disaster’
MANILA, Philippines—A plan to arm civilians against crime would be ”a recipe for another human rights disaster” under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday (July 1).
The New York City-based human rights advocacy group was reacting to a proposal of Duterte to arm civilian groups to help in the government’s anticrime campaign.
“Arming largely untrained and unaccountable militias is a recipe for another human rights disaster under President Duterte,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“It’s incredible that despite the growing international backlash against Duterte-linked abuses, the government is still devising more ways to threaten the lives of ordinary Filipinos,” he added.
Last week, Duterte said that PNP’s civilian volunteers could get guns so they could defend themselves while making a citizen’s arrest.
“If you have this coalition, you have a list of people who are there and who can arm themselves. I will order the police. If you are qualified, get a gun and help us enforce the laws,” Duterte added.
Human Rights Watch said that on top of the dangers of using armed civilians to fight crime, the deadly “war on drugs,” and New People’s Army rebels, national elections in 2022 create additional opportunities for abuse.
“By creating a new militia, the Duterte administration seems more intent than ever on shielding the police and military from accountability for serious abuses,” Adams said.
“The government should drop this dangerous idea, which the Philippines’ friends abroad should publicly oppose,” he added.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Wednesday said President Duterte was referring only to communities where communist guerrillas operate.
Duterte clarified this in a meeting on Monday, he said.
“He (Duterte) was referring to the areas under the influence of CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines—New People’s Army). After those barangays have been cleared, there are civilians and they need to defend their villages,” Año said.
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