Farmers and human rights groups expressed opposition to a statement by President Rodrigo Duterte ordering the arming of civilian groups to help in law enforcement, saying such move could lead to more unwarranted and merciless killings.
In separate statements, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Karapatan and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said so-called force multiplier groups under the Duterte government may lead to more extrajudicial killings.
“As if police brutality and the PNP’s (Philippine National Police) abuse of power are not enough, Duterte openly allows civic groups to carry arms. This is unacceptable and must be opposed. Tokhang killings have cost more than 30,000 lives,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.
Tokhang refers to extrajudicial killings of suspected illegal drug dependents by the police and suspected State agents since the start of the Duterte administration in 2016.
At the launch of the PNP-backed Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan, Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers in Camp Crame last Friday, Duterte ordered that the group carry firearms to help in law enforcement.
“If you have this coalition, you have a list of people who are there who can arm themselves. I will order the police if you are qualified, get a gun, and help us enforce the laws,” he said.
KMP said the public must oppose the proposal and Duterte’s move to turn so-called civic groups into his private army and death squads.
“Arming these civic groups will do more harm than good to the civilian population,” Ramos said.
Rights group Karapatan also expressed opposition to Duterte’s statement, citing abuses by state forces under his government.
“Arming them will further weaponize these groups as paramilitaries, which have a long bloody history of human rights violations, for the administration’s whole of nation approach in both campaigns — a tactic that merely uses the population to subvert civilian authority for militarist and fascist objectives and ends,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
The government’s own human rights agency opposed the proposal, saying armed civilian groups may cause more killings instead of being a deterrent to crime.
“Elections are fast approaching. We don’t want election-related violence to rise,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
“We also don’t want this proposal to be an excuse for armed groups to be used by politicians. We don’t want a Maguindanao Massacre to happen again,” she added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)