Defense chief calls human rights group rebels' mouthpiece

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Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana claims the advocacy group kept mum when the New Peoples' Army committed crimes. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana slammed international advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) for "being unreasonably critical and biased" against government forces.

Lorenzana called the HRW as the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and armed wing New People's Army (NPA), when it said the President's order to kill the rebels encourages troops "to commit war crimes."

"It is obvious that the HRW is acting as the spokesperson of the CPP-NPA," Lorenzana said in a statement Saturday.

The HRW, an international nongovernmental organization that investigates and documents human rights violations, claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte's P25,000 offer to Lumads to kill CPP-NPA members sanctions state-sponsored violence.

"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," the HRW said Wednesday.

Lorenzana called this out, saying that HRW stays silent when the NPA commits crimes.

"When Jose Maria Sison ordered the CPP-NPA to kill one soldier per region every day, not a pip was heard from the HRW. When the NPA beheaded a former comrade of theirs who had just returned to the fold of the law, the HRW was silent," he said.

The Defense Chief added the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are under strict orders to adhere to the principles of human rights.

Lorenzana explained, "Neutralizing rebels and terrorists is a legitimate law enforcement function, and the government is not precluded from offering rewards under Philippine laws."

Duterte's offer to the Lumad community came after a father and son were shot dead while on the way home from an Indigenous People's Summit in early February.

READ: Duterte offers to pay Lumads ₱20K each to kill NPA rebels

Members of the indigenous communities have been often recruited to join the NPA, as Lumad communities have decried the militarization in their areas and the killings of their leaders by state forces.

The Duterte administration has also been processing the formal declaration of the CPP-NPA as terrorists since November 2017, after it issued a proclamation formally ending peace negotiations with the rebels.