PROGRESSIVE groups have rejected the police claim that the nine persons killed during the March 7, 2021 simultaneous police operations in Calabarzon were “nanlaban,” a Filipino term for resisting arrest.
This, as the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service said it will conduct a motu proprio investigation into the said police operations.
The Commission on Human Rights has also launched an investigation into the incidents.
The inter-agency committee tasked to prosecute politically motivated killings will also assess the need to create a special team that will conduct an in-depth investigation into the killings.
Nine activists were killed and six others were arrested during the simultaneous service of 24 search warrants over illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal provinces on March 7.
Human rights groups condemned the killings and maintained that the police intentionally killed them based on President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to kill armed communist rebels and ignore human rights.
Police, on the other hand, said those who were killed had resisted arrest.
Lawyer Kristina Conti of the Public Interest Law Center refuted the “nanlaban” claim of the police.
She said witnesses related that, Manny Asuncion, coordinator of activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Cavite, was brought to a room and shot dead.
"From our fact-finding, the police just barged into the office, which was not his residence. Didn't show any warrant, asked his wife and a companion to leave the room, took Manny into one of the inner room where he was killed. So, we have witnesses in that case," she said in a television interview.
"All of these people were activists. The only connection that we can really trace of them, the police really identified them as, I’m not sure if it's already with the NTF-Elcac (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflic) or the military, but they identified them as members or supporters of CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army), which is absolutely not true," she added.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Debold Sinas earlier defended the legitimacy of the operations, saying that these were based on court orders.
In another statement, Sinas said the application of search warrants against the subject persons was based on verified facts and not on mere membership or affiliation with any organization.
“Our police operatives were briefed to exert all possible means to peacefully serve the search warrants. They are however, trained to defend themselves against any unlawful aggression,” he said.
“The allegations of ‘planted evidence’ are baseless and unfounded. These only serve to undermine the wisdom of the courts and the legitimacy of police operations,” he added.
In a virtual press briefing, Department of Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said the vetting process will determine whether the incident is covered by Administrative Order No. 35 of 2012, which created the inter-agency committee on extra-legal killings and forced disappearance, torture and other grave violation on the right to life, liberty and security of persons.
If not, the case will be referred to the PNP for the conduct of a regular investigation.
“We are conducting initial investigation to determine kung kailangan po na magbuo ng special investigation team under the AO 35 mechanism composed of prosecutors, law enforcers agencies para mas masusi at mas malalim na tignan kung ano po ang nangyari dito sa siyam paano po ang pagkamatay (nila), ano po ang circumstances,” he said.
“Probably po within 24 to 48 hours magkakaroon po kami ng initial assessment,” he added.
He said the committee is limited to investigating incidents involving members of cause-oriented groups and those engaged primarily in legitimate dissent or opposition.
Among the cases being investigated by the committee are the killing of activist Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Randall “Randy” Echanis in Quezon City, both in August 2020. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo / SunStar Philippines)