Roque: OK to kill armed NPA rebels

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 2) — Killing an armed communist rebel is not against the law, Malacañang said Saturday in defense of President Rodrigo Duterte's order to shoot members of the New People's Army (NPA).

"Kung meron pong NPA na armado, hindi po labag sa batas na patayin yan dahil ang armadong NPA po talaga ay banta sa pagkatao at sa kaarapatang mabuhay ng ating kasundaluhan," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Malacañang press briefing in Zamboanga City.

(Translation: "It is not against the law to kill an armed NPA member because the NPA really is a threat to soldiers' lives.")

There's nothing wrong with Duterte's order, said Roque, a known human rights advocate. 

He said it does not violate the international humanitarian law, which seeks to limit the consequences of armed conflict.

"'Yun po ang distinction ng human rights and humanitarian law.  Ang human rights will never accept any derogation on the right to life. But humanitarian law will not prohibit the killing provided it is pursuant to the law," he said.

Duterte on Wednesday ordered the police and military to immediately shoot NPA rebels if they are holding firearms. "They will kill you anyway," the President said.

It followed Duterte's Proclamation No. 360, terminating peace negotiations with the rebels.

Read more: Duterte orders police, military: Shoot an armed NPA rebel if you see one

Communist rebels have decried Duterte's "shoot-to-kill" order as a violation of international humanitarian law, specifically the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 protocols.

"It is a dangerous idea and an unacceptable norm to sweepingly say without any qualification or clear explanation that an armed combatant can be summarily killed without any accountability," said Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents rebels in talks to end the armed conflict.

The Philippines is a party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Article 3 of which states, "persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed 'hors de combat' (out of action) by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely."

Roque quoted the same convention, but said it was only referring to non-combatants such as civilians, religious workers, and humanitarian workers.

He said all armed rebels are "valid military targets," and said killing the rebels should only be questioned if they are sleeping.

Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday also disagreed with the President's order to shoot the rebels, saying it would violate due process that must still be accorded to the accused.

The Armed Forces estimates there are around 3,800 NPA fighters in the country. The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has waged a 48-year-old insurgency, the longest-running in Asia.