Philippine leftists and human rights groups around the world reacted with dismay to a speech by president Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday. Duterte threatened to create a “death squad” to hunt what he said were Maoist assassins. Critics say Duterte just wants to strike fear in the hearts of Filipinos, and has become insecure about his hold on power. Many fear this could trigger killings similar to his bloody war on drugs.
Human rights groups have denounced Duterte’s statement, saying that it is a justification for “inciting a killing spree against government critics and human rights defenders.” Anyone who is an opponent or critic of the government would be at risk.
The Filipino Defence Secretary said Duterte’s death squad would be considered, “We will study it very closely,” saying he will study the plan, “who will supervise it, who will be the targets.”
Duterte has been accused of running a death squad when he was mayor of Davao City under President Benigno Aquino III. When Duterte first became President, he began a chilling war on drugs. Rights groups say the death toll is at least 15,000 people and probably higher in the last two years. Many fear that Duterte’s death squad plan will worsen the killings.