Dela Rosa, Hontiveros want probe into anti-communist group in Negros Oriental

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MANILA, Philippines — Sens. Risa Hontiveros and Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa called on the Philippine National Police to investigate seriously an alleged group targeting individuals accused of supporting communist rebels in Negros Oriental.

Both lawmakers made the call during the Senate probe into the recent string of killings in Negros island Tuesday after learning that five of the 15 people tagged as supporters of the New People’s Army in flyers earlier distributed by group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) had been killed.

Human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants last month, was among the personalities on Kagubak’s “hit list.”

“One-third of the names in the list had been killed. This confirms the hit list of Kagubak is real. Not investigating this would be an outrage,” Hontiveros said in a mix of English and Filipino. She, along with Sen. Leila de Lima, filed the resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the Negros killings.

She added: “We should take not only the list but also Kagubak seriously because they have a bloody track record in Guihulngan.”

Dela Rosa, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, supported Hontiveros’ call.

“This committee demands the Police Regional Office 7 to account for the 10 living persons on the list when you get home. Make sure they are still alive,” Dela Rosa said.

Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo told the Senate panel “that we will try our best to protect these remaining personalities.”

Police protection

Lt. Col. Bonifacio Tecson, Guihulngan City police chief, revealed that several people on the list—including Trinidad—had approached the police to clear their names when the flyers came out in 2018.

“Many went to the police station. They wanted to clear their names [and clarify] that they are not supporters of the NPA,” Tecson said.

He added that Trinidad had asked for police protection.

“Atty. Trinidad requested for security. I told him to send a request because it had to undergo a process because if we grant all request, we will run short of cops in Guihulngan,” Tecson said.

The death of Trinidad exposed that “hit lists” often translate to killings, rights group Karapatan and lawyers’ group National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers earlier stressed.

“This only proves as well that the perceived dangers of being arbitrarily, maliciously and baselessly red-tagged are neither imaginary nor contrived, but constitute real threats to life, liberty and security,” Edre Olaila, NUPL secretary general, said.

“Hit lists are enumerations of targets. It is meant to harass, but it is also an explicit threat to one’s life. The fact that these lists include names of community leaders, activists and human rights defenders point to the conclusion that these violations are systematic and methodical,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said.

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