DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Bayan Muna Partylist warns that the bounty offered by President Rodrigo Duterte for the capture or killing of New People’s Army (NPA) leaders will lead to abuses by the military and police to arrest critics and civilians.
The president made this offer during Tuesday’s televised address to the public on updates on the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite expressed concern that “the P2-million bounty for NPA commanders would only result in more abuses and human rights violations against civilians. Violations that involve fake arrests and surrenders, fake encounters, and killings.”
Gaite cited the incident in Bulan, Sorsogon last May 8 where five farmers were killed in an alleged encounter reported by the military.
The lawmaker also mentioned how 16 Coca-Cola workers from Sta. Rosa, Laguna was brought to a military camp on April 30 and were projected by the military as rebel returnees.
Fellow Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat also reported that 26 Dumagat people were presented as “rebel surrenderees last April 15 in Barangay Umiray, Dingalan, Aurora.
“These staged encounters and surrenders clearly reveal that military officials just abuse the bounty and reward system in the government’s counter-insurgency drive and are making a ton of profit at the expense of their civilian victims,” said Gaite.
The government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) provides rebel returnees are allotted P160,000 in assistance, but Gaite raised doubts these funds are corrupted.
“That’s why military officials and their men are on a bounty rush. Even more unjust, their targets are innocent civilians and not real combatants which are harder for them to pursue,” Gaite said.
Cullamat added that this bounty will continue the counter-insurgency drive that is placing indigenous communities under their control.
“There is widespread intimidation of indigenous peoples who have been forced to attend gatherings made by the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict),” Cullamat said. “Who are they targeting? The Lumad who have been fighting for our ancestral lands and right to life, and we are not armed civilians.
Cullamat criticizes the Duterte administration, “instead of spending money for aid for the people, they waste people’s taxes with this latest militarist program.”
Also in reaction to the cash bounty, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison warned of more human rights violations.
“We can expect more murders being committed by military and police officers against innocent civilians who are misrepresented as NPA commanders,” he added.
Sison took swipe at Duterte on his “gross incompetence and failure” in implementing a medical solution in the response to the coronavirus crisis. (davaotoday.com)