Karapatan protests the killings of two of its members: Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala.
DOJ orders probe into activist killings in Bicol
(Philstar.com) - June 19, 2019 - 5:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered an investigation into the killing of three activists in the Bicol region in recent days.

In a statement, Undersecretary Mark Parete said Guevarra approved Tuesday the creation of two Special Investigating Teams to probe the killings of former Bayan Muna Bicol regional coordinator Neptali Moraga, and Karapatan-Sorsogon members Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala.

"Acting pursuant to Administrative Order 35, the secretary of Justice directed prosecutors to head the investigating teams tasked to ascertain if the incidents are politically motivated and to assist in the build up of cases for the successful prosecution of those responsible," Parete, also the agency’s spokesperson, said.

AO 35 created the Inter-agency Committee on Extra-legal Killings, Enforced Disappearance, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons, which is chaired by the Justice secretary.

The administrative order was issued in 2012 to address allegations that state and non-state actors have been "silencing, through violence and intimidation, legitimate dissent and opposition raised by members of the civil society, cause-oriented groups, political movements, people’s and nor-government organizations, and by ordinary citizens."

The AO is also the government's basis for what qualifies as an extrajudicial killing.

Parete added that prosecutors should submit their report to the AO 35 Secretariat within 30 days from the creation of the SIT.

Three dead in as many days

Moraga was gunned down in Naga City, Camarines Sur while on his way to work Monday morning.

Two days earlier, Hubilla and Bagasala were killed by unidentified gunmen while riding a tricycle. Karapatan said the killing happened after their members in the province were subjected to “periodic surveillance” by government security forces.

The Commission on Human Rights earlier said it has deployed a quick response team to probe and monitor the recent killings of activists.

The Philippine government has repeatedly denied that death squads and extrajudicial killings are part of state policy. It has also stressed that security forces follow due process and respect human rights.

Despite that, government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte, have regularly characterized human rights and human rights defenders as being to the advantage of drug syndicates, terrorists and other criminals. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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