Duterte declares hands-off policy in Army's anti-NPA campaign in Paquibato

Radio reports said Uriel Emata was killed by gunmen who entered his house in Paquibato Thursday night.

Duterte blamed Army soldiers for the killing. He said soldiers have been committing human rights abuses in Paquibato, a known stronghold of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

"You are acting like an occupation army here," a visibly peeved Duterte said in a press conference Friday afternoon at the Grand Men Seng hotel.

He said the withdrawal of support will cover only the Army’s anti-insurgency campaign in Paquibato but not Task Force Davao in charge of the security of Davao City.

Duterte said he would leave the fate and security of the 38,266 residents in Paquibato district to the  military now that he has withdrawn his support.

"If you think the residents are your enemy, finish them off so you have no more problem," Duterte said.

He acknowledged having taken an oath to protect the people but military abuses there, including forcing residents to report to the military, have rendered him ineffective.

Paquibato residents, he said, can now choose between the military and the NPA.

Addressing the colonel who reportedly told Paquibato residents “walang mayor-mayor dito” (do not invoke the mayor’s name here), Duterte said, “kung ganito ang nangyayari dito, hindi ko masisisi ang mga tao na mag-join ng NPA” (if this is what’s happening here, I can’t blame the people from joining the NPA).

He challenged the military to ask themselves “why are you not winning the war?”

“You have not learned your lessons,” he said as he stressed that military abuses have been a major factor in driving people to the NPA, including Leoncio Pitao alias Parago, the commander of the Pulang Bagani Command.

He blamed some military officers for the widespread human rights abuses committed by soldiers in Paquibato.

"I have been patient with these military officers and yet they continue to spread lies behind my back," Duterte said. "For the record, I have never asked the relief of any military officer. I have not talked with President Arroyo for a long time."

One of the alleged lies being spread by these military officers, Duterte said, is that he had asked President Gloria Arroyo to relieve Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, chief of the 10th Infantry Division. Mapagu assumed post on February 10.

Duterte said he could not possibly ask the relief of  Mapagu  because the two officers are "his personal friends and are decent officers."

He declined to name the alleged abusive military officers, including the colonel. Duterte said he would name them when the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) comes here end of this month for a public hearing. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)