UNPERTURBED by the backlash against his controversial order to shoot female communist guerrillas in their vaginas, President Rodrigo Duterte has offered indigenous peoples PHP25,000 (about $500) for every New People’s Army (NPA) rebel they can kill.
“Now, I’m placing a premium. Okay, (I’ll pay) PHP25,000. If you work really hard to crawl across the forest, you’ll surely be able to shoot even just one (NPA). If you can shoot a bird above you, then how much more about an NPA whose head is so big,” Duterte said at a private meeting in Cebu City on Tuesday, a transcript of which has been made available to the media.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which was founded by Jose Maria Sison, an academic who went into exile in The Netherlands.
The new bounty is higher from the PHP20,000 Duterte dangled to indigenous peoples earlier this month, in response to a threat from Sison that the guerrillas could kill a soldier a day to pressure the government to resume peace negotiations.
Last week, addressing more than 200 NPA surrenderers, Duterte issued a controversial order to soldiers to shoot the vagina of female communist rebels, drawing a public uproar, especially from women’s groups.
“Shoot their vaginas because without that, they are useless,” Duterte, a confessed womaniser, had said.
Following the liberation of Marawi City in the southern Philippines from the clutches of Islamic State-aligned militants last October, Duterte directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines to crush the communist rebels who were formally organised 49 years ago.
Duterte terminated peace talks with the communist rebels in November due to their intensified attacks that had claimed the lives of government troops and civilians.
The following month, Duterte declared the communist group as a terrorist organisation, and used, among others, the security threats posed by the group in requesting for another extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2018.
The rebellion waged by the CPP-NPA, which the United States also classifies as a foreign terrorist organisation, is considered the longest running communist insurgency in Asia. The rebels are known to operate in the mountains straddling the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples or tribal members.
In the transcript of the private meeting in Cebu City early this week, Duterte said: “As a matter of fact, we are fighting a desperate war against the NPAs.” The president said that instead of going to war, offering a PHP25,000 bounty for each NPA fighter killed “will save the government billions of pesos.”
International watchdog Human Rights Watch slammed Duterte, with the group’s Philippine researcher Carlos Conde saying that the president’s bounty offer “encourages war crimes.”
“Duterte needs to stop encouraging his troops to commit war crimes and instead promote measures to ensure that those responsible for abuses – including members of rebel groups and militias – are held accountable in accordance with international law,” he said in a statement.
Conde said respecting human rights rather than offering bounties is the best way to help the indigenous peoples, also referred to as “Lumad” in the southern Philippines.
Sandugo, a group of Moro (Muslims) and indigenous peoples in Mindanao, also blasted Duterte’s bounty offer, describing it as “bribery.”
“The Lumad survived centuries without much need of cash but by developing the land and resources in their ancestral territories. Their deep sense of community and identity impel them to protect themselves from outsiders who want to plunder their lands,” it said.
Sandugo co-chairperson Jerome Succor Aba added: “by trying to divide and pit them against each other through military training and offer of money to kill is simply bastardisation of their culture.”