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It was an idea worth discussing




PRESIDENT Duterte was speaking before soldiers at Camp Rajah Sikatuna in Carmen, Bohol, last November 27 when he said, “I will create my own Sparrow. Walang hanapin kundi mga istambay na mga tao, prospective NPAs, at bibirahin sila. I will match their talent in assassinating people….”

The “Sparrow” group was an assassination squad organized by the New People’s Army that killed government officials, soldiers, and policemen in the 1970s and 1980s. As may be expected, the President’s words have drawn a whirlwind of criticism from various sectors but also spirited efforts to defend the President’s intentions, if not his actual statement.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he doubted the President was serious because, as a lawyer, he knows it would be “illegal and criminal” to organize any group of assassins. Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, who has just been named secretary of the Department of Information and Communication Technology, said “extreme measures” would indeed be needed for “extreme situations,” but such measures must be according to law.

The political opposition led by Liberal Party president Sen. Francis Pangilinan said creating death squads would only turn the country into a “howling, lawless wilderness.” Sen. Grace Poe said: “The President says things like that at times, but we all know that we have rule of law to follow, so that is what should prevail.” Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the President’s order would only promote “state gangsterism.” Sen. Antonio Trillanes said the President just wants to” strike fear into the hearts and minds of Filipinos… Fear is his only way to keep people in check.”

The military, through Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo just said, “For us, this is a show of care for the soldiers by our commander-in-chief.” Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, “I think the President was just bringing an idea…. So let’s wait for that idea to be realized…. He’s floating that idea and some are responding, others for and others against. Let’s see how it develops.”

That is probably the best way to respond to the President’s remarks. This is not the first time his words have provoked controversy and previous aides have advised everyone concerned to be ready at all times to see the President’s unexpected remarks with “creative imagination.”

It is his actions that matter. Should he ever undertake any action deemed illegal by some, it is bound to be taken to court and the President has shown he respects our system of checks and balances and our system of justice.

So what of the “Sparrow” assassination unit the President was talking about when he was speaking in Bohol last week? We expect that issue has run its course. It was an idea that was worth discussing but not likely to be carried out.