Rights groups yesterday raised fears after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced plans to create a "death squad" targeting suspected communist rebels, saying it would worsen the "calamity" triggered by his deadly drug war.
The Philippines' 50-year fight against communist militants, one of Asia's oldest insurgencies, long pre-dates his anti-narcotics crackdown that has killed thousands and drawn international censure.
Duterte, like previous governments, initially held peace talks with the communists but shelved negotiations last year over deadly attacks against soldiers and police. The low-level, simmering insurgency has claimed 30,000 lives by the government's count.
In a speech Tuesday night, he took aim at the communist rebels' hit squads known as "sparrow units".
"What I lack is my own sparrow. That is where they (communists) have an edge... So I will create my own sparrow, Duterte Death Squad against the sparrow," the president said. "I will match their talent also for assassinating people," he added.
Since negotiations with the rebels broke down, Duterte also formally designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and its 3,800-member armed wing the New People's Army (NPA) as terrorist organisations.