Duterte 'hit squad' to be screened

November 28, 2018
Rodrigo R. Duterte
Rodrigo R. Duterte

CIVILIANS who may be recruited to join an anti-New People’s Army “hit squad” being planned by President Duterte will be carefully screened by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces to ensure they will go after real targets only without harming innocent civilians, officials said yesterday.

According to PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde, prospective members of the group must be qualified to own firearms and should only carry guns covered with special permits and licenses being issued by the PNP Permit-to-Carry Firearms-Outside-of-Residence (PTCFOR) Secretariat which is under the officer of the PNP chief and the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office.

“Hindi naman ‘yung sinabi niya na aarmasan niya basta-basta ‘yung mga sibilyan. Those that are qualified to handle firearms and to be owners of licensed firearms will only be allowed,” Albayalde said during the founding anniversary of the Quezon City Police District headed by Chief Superintendent Joselito T. Esquivel Jr.

For his part, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana batted for the need to recruit soldiers into the purported DDS which will hunt and neutralize suspected NPA rebels as well as the need to properly train them to prevent the possibility they may recklessly endanger the lives of the public should they resort to firing at will.

“Pabor ako diyan, pero ang gagamitin natin, mga sundalo, hindi kung sinu-sino lang. Dapat merong accountability. Dapat may clearance from their commander [ang operations laban sa mga Sparrow members]. Hindi sila puedeng bigyan ng blanket authority na tirahin ang kahit sino gusto nilang tirahin,” Lorenzana told a television interview.

The two top security officials issued their respective statement hours after President Duterte said he was mulling the formation of a “Duterte Death Squad” to match the talent of NPA Sparrow units known for assassinating all targets of opportunity specifically soldiers and policemen during their unguarded times.

The President warned that suspected NPA members will be gunned down.

“Walang kailangang hanapin ang death squad kundi mga mag-istambay na mga tao diyan, suspected NPAs, at bibirahin din,” he said.

NPA hit squads, specifically the infamous Alex Boncayao Brigade, gained notoriety in the early 80s for assassinating soldiers and policemen particularly during the waning days of the Marcos presidency and later the 6-year Corazon Aquino administration.

ABB gunmen during those days assassinated dozens of uniformed soldiers and policemen who were doing foot patrols, manning traffic or riding their mobile cars or doing their routine marketing chores.

Gen. Albayalde also scoffed at self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines chairman Jose Ma. Sison’s threat to launch a full-scale war against the government.

“You want war? Bring it on!” Sison said. However, the PNP chief said they are ready for any eventualities. “Hanggang ‘yun lang naman ang threat. Paano ka matatakot sa isang taong walang kontrol sa mga local territorial units nila,” he said.

Sec. Lorenzana also batted for the need to fully validate information regarding suspected NPA hitmen. “Kailangan siguradong ang tina-target natin ay Sparrow member talaga. Mahirap naman na magkamali tayo. Kawawa naman ang mamamatay na ‘di naman pala talaga miyembro ng Sparrow. Iniiwasan nating magkamali. Hindi puedeng itinuro lang ng isang tao, ‘yun pala kagalit niya, eh maniniwala na tayo. We have to be very careful,” the Defense chief said.

Both Albayalde and Lorenzana maintained the need to put members of the planned group in check. “The danger of abuse here and committing a mistake...napakalaki kung walang kontrol,” Sec. Lorenzana said.