Lorenzana rebukes HRW for ‘war crimes’ comment

MANILA -- The Department of National Defense has lambasted the international group Human Rights Watch's (HRW) assessment that President Rodrigo R. Duterte's offer to give monetary rewards for every communist rebel killed encourages "war crimes".

"We disagree with the assessment of HRW that President Rodrigo Duterte's reward offer of PHP20,000 for every NPA (New People's Army) member killed 'encourages war crimes'," DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement Saturday.

He added that eliminating rebels and terrorists is a legitimate law enforcement function, and the government is not precluded from offering rewards under Philippine laws.

"Furthermore, our Defenders are under strict orders to adhere to the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law when they operate in the field. They know only too well that anyone of them who is found guilty of abuse will be sanctioned accordingly," Lorenzana added.

The defense chief also said the HRW has always been unreasonably critical and biased against the military and police.

"It stays silent even when the NPA goes on a killing rampage while quick to accuse Philippine law enforcement agencies of trumped up or unconfirmed violations. When Jose Maria Sison ordered the CPP-NPA to kill one soldier per region every day, not a pip was heard from the HRW," he added.

"When the NPA beheaded a former comrade of theirs who had just returned to the fold of the law, the HRW was silent. Why did the HRW not say anything when the NPA killed a father and his son�Lumad leaders who attended a Lumad Summit with the President? Where was the HRW when the NPA was burning left and right the equipment of public companies for not acceding to their extortion demands? It is obvious that the HRW is acting as the spokesperson of the CPP-NPA," Lorenzana added.

Lorenzana said the Chief Executive's pronouncement that he will pay for every communist rebel killed came after the killings of lumads and Sison's directive to kill one soldier or policeman per region a day.

"In the interest of neutrality, objectivity, and the truth, we strongly urge the HRW to stop its hypocrisy and, instead, do the right thing by acknowledging and investigating these glaring atrocities being committed by the NPA. including the murder of innocent civilians, who resist their aggressive exploitation, and the deceptive recruitment of our indigenous population," he said.

Lorenzana assured that the government will do everything in its power to protect communities and uphold the rule of law.

CPP is the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Source: Philippine News Agency