President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to create a “counter terror” force to thwart the New People’s Army’s (NPA) liquidation group was a proactive measure to protect soldiers and policemen, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.
The President said members of state forces to be deployed against terror groups, mainly the NPA, can count on him for protection when they do their duty.
At the ground-breaking ceremony of Panguil Bay Bridge, Mr. Duterte told members of the military and the police: “I will take care of you if you run into trouble performing your duty. I will not allow a policeman or soldier to go to prison for doing his duty.”
“But I certainly would kill anybody, be it military or police or a civilian or mayor, whoever you are (if you abuse your power),” he said.
Lorenzana noted recent statements of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison who ordered the NPA to liquidate government troops.
The Defense chief said while there is no resurgence of attacks from the NPA’s Special Partisan Unit (Sparu), it is better for the government to be proactive.
“Remember that recently Sison has declared that he has ordered his NPA fighters to kill one soldier or policeman a day? The only NPA unit that could do that is their Sparus,” Lorenzana said.
“There may not be a resurgence (of Sparu attacks), but the threat is always there,” he added.
Careful study needed
However, Lorenzana maintained the President’s intent would still be studied very carefully by the Department of National Defense (DND) for proper implementation if it pushes through.
Just like in any unit, the possibility of “abuse” would be there if not properly organized and supervised.
“We will study it very closely: who will compose it, who will supervise it, who will be the targets, who will be accountable, because there is great danger of abuse or mistakes in these undercover operations,” he said.
When asked to expound on possible mistakes, the DND chief said he was referring to misidentification of targets.
“Mistakes in identifying their targets. He or she might only look similar to the target or was just wrongly tagged. One way to prevent this is for someone higher-up to give the go signal after careful and thorough vetting. Operatives should not have blanket authority on the matter,” Lorenzana stressed.
On Tuesday, the President said he intends to match the NPA’s Sparu to protect policemen and soldiers from being killed.
The NPA’s Sparu, an urban hit squad targeting law enforcers, gained notoriety in the 1980s.
“I will match their talent in assassinating people,” vowed Mr. Duterte.
Duterte said on Tuesday night he would not declare a nationwide martial law after he ordered the deployment of more troops in parts of the Visayas and Bicol region because of lawlessness and acts of terror.
The President’s remarks came after critics, including legislators belonging to the Makabayan bloc, said Malacañang was taking another step towards imposing a nationwide martial rule by issuing Memorandum Order 32 that was made public last week.
“No. I am not going to declare martial law,” said Duterte at the sidelines of the inauguration of the newly built Bohol-Panglao International Airport.
He reiterated that there were enough powers under the presidency to quell lawless violence, thus nixing the option of declaring a nationwide martial law.
Enough powers available
“There are enough powers of the presidency that I can utilize, but well, if it’s widespread violence, then maybe,” Duterte said. “But I really do not need violence in every corner of the Philippines to say that we are in danger, but as the one in the office there working for the people, I will do what is necessary to preserve this nation and to protect the people.”
The President stressed he ordered the troop deployment in response to “many” armed encounters and deadly attacks on soldiers and policemen by lawless groups, noting that he is just doing his duty as President to ensure the security of the country.
“I’m surprised why you (media) are so interested about deployment when I’m supposed to take care of the security of the country,” Duterte said.
Sison described the recent pronouncement of Mr. Duterte as a “dangerous proposal.”
In a televised interview Wednesday, Sison said the President’s statements late Tuesday night will allow military officials to kill suspected fighters who may be tagged as part of the NPA’s “Sparrow Units.”
with Elmer N. Manuel