THE Philippine National Police (PNP) “categorically denied” getting an alleged order from President Rodrigo Duterte prohibiting the release of information on ongoing investigations into the recent killing of human rights activists.
“In the conduct of investigation on crime incidents, the PNP strictly adheres to all procedures which are covered by the Rules on Evidence and the Data Privacy Law mandating the protection of identities while the investigation is pending,” PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac said in a statement.
“Once the case is filed with the prosecutor, the police are at no liberty to disclose any and all details without clearance from the assigned prosecutor,” he added.
Banac made the statement following the claim of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Leah Tanadra-Armamento that Duterte has ordered investigators not to provide them with any information about the investigation they were conducting.
Banac said the CHR is free to conduct its own investigation and develop and procure its own evidence.
“This is independent and separate from the standard protocols of the Philippine National Police,” said Banac.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had also denied that Duterte issued such an instruction.
The allegation was made following the killing of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Randall Echanis on August 10 and Karapatan paralegal worker Zara Alvarez on August 17.
Investigators have yet to identify the assailants of the two victims.
Echanis was killed in his rented house in Novaliches, Quezon City in Metro Manila along with his neighbor Loiue Tagapia while Alvarez was gunned down along Sta. Maria Street in Ereco Subdivision in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.
The police initially refused to release the remains to the Echanis family claiming that the person who was killed was a certain Manuel Santiago based on the identification cards recovered from the scene.
The police released the remains to the Echanis family after it was confirmed through fingerprint examination that Echanis was the same person as Santiago.
On Friday, forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun said based on the initial autopsy she conducted, Echanis sustained multiple physical injuries in different parts of his body which indicates that he was tortured.
“If physical suffering is inflicted, it looks like he sustained a lot of injuries first that were not intended to kill him outright and the final fatal injury is the stab wound hitting the aorta,” she said.
Fortun said the body bore no gunshot wounds.
Meanwhile, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights watchdog Karapatan, said Alvarez had received “threats, vilification, and harassment from the military”.
On October 30, 2012, Alvarez was arrested and charged with murder along with 42 other activists. She was released on bail on July 22, 2014.
On March 4, 2020, Alvarez was acquitted of the charges filed against her for lack of evidence. (SunStar Philippines)