Philippine President Encourages War Crimes

Opinion & Analysis Philippines Mar 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm

DuterteBy Carlos H. Conde
Human Rights Watch

While attending a memorial service today for four policemen, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged the army to “Go ahead, flatten the hills.” In counterinsurgency operations, he said, “anything goes for now. If there’s collateral damage, pasensiya” – using a Tagalog word that can mean either “I’m sorry” or “Too bad.”

His rhetoric, in response to the officers’ killing the previous day by Communist New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents in the southern Philippines, may cost many civilians their lives.

International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, rejects the “anything goes” approach to warfare and places specific restraints on all parties to an armed conflict to spare civilians and other non-combatants the horrors of war. Armies must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians. Attacks against lawful targets cannot be indiscriminate or cause civilian loss greater than the expected military gain. Were the Philippine military to “flatten the hills” without regard to civilian loss of life and property, those involved would be committing war crimes.

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