DEFENSE Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana yesterday said they will look into the formation of the government’s own “sparrow unit” that will combat communist rebels following the pronouncement of the President on Tuesday.
The sparrow unit was known during the Marcos dictatorship as the hit men in urban areas of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed groups of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“We will study it very closely. Who will compose it, who will supervise it, who will be the targets. Who will be accountable. Because there is great danger of abuse or mistakes in these undercover operations,” said Mr. Lorenzana in a message to the reporters on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte said on Tuesday that he will create his own hit group, dubbed as “Duterte Death Squad,” that will combat the NPA’s “sparrow unit.”
The defense chief said a leader is needed to guide the operations of the planned hit squad to avoid accidental attacks on mistaken identities.
“[There could be] mistakes in identifying their targets… One way to prevent this is for someone higher up to give the go signal after careful and thorough vetting,” said Mr. Lorenzana, adding that operatives should not be given “blanket authority.”
Meanwhile, exiled CPP leader Jose Maria C. Sison said the NPA’s sparrow unit is not what it used to be.
“They don’t exist anymore in the way they existed in the 70s, 80s…. It’s Duterte who says a lot about sparrow unit, but the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) authorities have not been talking about it. In Mindanao, there are already incidents of NPA, not necessarily sparrow, hitting AFP,” said Mr. Sison in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on Wednesday morning.
He added, “As far as I know, there is no widescale operation of sparrow. NPA Sparrow Unit now have a different purpose, Duterte is just inventing. He’s giving the license again to military officers to kill anyone in bus terminals just because they don’t like the looks of anyone who’s a tambay (bystander).”
On another matter, Mr. Sison said he and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were surprised about the resignation of Jesus G. Dureza as Presidential Peace Adviser as confirmed by Mr. Duterte on Tuesday night.
“We in the NDF were surprised because we have always thought that Duterte and Dureza are quite close to each other, have mutual trust and confidence. But of course there is something unbelievable about the corruption charge,” said Mr. Sison.
At a speech at the new Bohol airport inauguration, Mr. Duterte also announced that he has sacked two officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP), Ronald I. Flores, who held an undersecretary rank, and Yeshter Donn P. Baccay, an assistant secretary.
Both officials were under the office in charge of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA program, which provides interventions and development projects such as infrastructure and livelihood in conflict-affected areas.
Mr. Dureza, in a post on his official Facebook page, wrote, “Although I have voluntarily relinquished my assigned task at OPAPP, I call on everyone to continue supporting our President. I will continue to do so in my private capacity. I believe in him and in his sincere intentions for our country. He cannot do this alone.”
In a separate interview with ANC, former NDFP consultant Saturnino C. Ocampo said the President might choose someone from the military to takeover Mr. Dureza’s post.
“There’s a possibility that the President may appoint a military officer and that would not be good for the prospect of the peace negotiations,” said Mr. Ocampo.
Last Nov. 19, retiring Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Carlito G. Galvez Jr. expressed his interest to become a consultant for OPAPP to help in the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras