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Senator Leila M. de Lima feared that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) death squads were behind the cold blooded murder of red-tagged civilians and officials in Negros.

“If there are police death squads for suspected drug offenders, are there now AFP death squads for red-tagged civilians and officials roaming around Negros Island?” de Lima asked in the wake of the continued spate of extrajudicial killings in Negros Island.

De Lima said it has become more apparent that the Duterte regime was waging a different war, possibly using the AFP to summarily execute red-tagged civilians and public officials and human rights defenders.

“Now it appears that Duterte has found a way on how to involve the AFP in his EJK campaign. He found an enemy and a target for them – red-tagged civilians and public officials and human rights defenders,” she said.

“If the AFP becomes complicit, Duterte would have succeeded in turning the entire security forces of the Philippines into a vigilante force operating outside of the law and with impunity,” she added.

She claimed the number of civilians killed has spiked since the implementation of Memorandum Order (MO) No. 32 on Nov. 22, 2018, which directed the deployment of additional troops to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Bicol Region supposedly to suppress lawless violence.

Since July 23, at least 13 people were reportedly killed in different towns and cities in Negros Oriental. Among them were human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad, school principal Arthur Bayawa, barangay captains Romeo Alipan and Ernesto Posadas, city councilor RamonJalandoni, and former town mayor Edsel Enardecido.

Based on the human rights group Defend Negros Network, at least 87 individuals have been killed in Negros Island alone since Mr. Duterte assumed office in 2017, of whom 20 individuals died in 2017, 29 in 2018, and 38 in 2019.

“None of the victims are combatants. Some of them are actually public officials. The killings of civilians and officials only became rampant in the area after MO 32,” said De Lima, the staunchest critic of the Duterte’s sham war against illegal drugs.

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