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Shoot-to-kill, indeed!


BY ROBERT B. ROQUE, JR.


On March 5, President Duterte stated that he was giving the shoot-to-kill order against armed communist rebels. Such pronouncements are dangerous, but defenders of the Palace resident would often qualify the context of these remarks to make them look less than a death sentence.

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True enough, when National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. addressed the Laging Handa briefing last Tuesday, March 9, he made the proper qualification. First, he specified the enemies of the state identified by his boss as members of the CPP-NPA or the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. Second, he painted the scenario that in the event security forces cross paths with the armed rebels, the Commander-in-Chief was giving them the go-signal to shoot-to-kill rather than be a casualty of rebel firepower.

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Superficially, the rhyme and reason between Duterte’s declaration and Esperon’s explanation seem natural rules of engagement in armed conflicts. But between their two statements, what is now known as “Bloodbath Sunday” happened on March 7. And here’s what we understand by fact: Police armed with arrest warrants from a Manila Regional Trial Court swooped down on their targets in four provinces of Southern Tagalog like clockwork, killing nine activists – six in Rizal; two in Batangas; and one in Cavite.

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At this point, the Department of Justice is stepping in to investigate what happened, stopping short of saying whether these deaths were the result of an operation gone awry, a legitimate encounter, or maybe a summary execution.

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Police operatives claim all the fatalities were armed. Relatives of the slain activists who witnessed the bloodshed claim none of them were armed when shot at by police. But even if they were in their own premises, were these activists communists, trained combatants, and plural in number to be a proportionate threat to the arresting officers?

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I’m armed at home for my family’s protection, but I’m far from an activist – does that make me an armed rebel and a “legitimate” target of the President’s shoot-to-kill order? I’m no NPA coddler, and I don’t even believe in the communist ideology, but I embrace democracy and its processes. Human rights, respect for life, and one’s justice in court are what I believe in. They’re enshrined in our Constitution as a protection for all and supersedes any shoot-to-kill order from any sitting president.

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Whatever these nine people did to deserve being arrested, it was the police’s job to make sure they answered to it before the court, not to bullets firing off the barrels of their guns. While I refrain from passing judgment on the law enforcers involved pending the DOJ probe, I hope the PNP looks at itself in the mirror to check if it still bears the halo of law, discipline, and order. Or are there demons over their shoulders?

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email [email protected] or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at Tempo – The Nation’s Fastest Growing Newspaper

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Written by Tempo Desk

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