Minority senators: Bloody Calabarzon raids part of 'long-standing policy'

Minority senators: Bloody Calabarzon raids part of 'long-standing policy'
This photo shows President Rodrigo Duterte addressing members of the government's anti-communist task force on March 5, where he told cops and soldiers to "ignore human rights" during encounters with suspected rebels.
Presidential Photo / Karl Norman Alonzo

MANILA, Philippines — Members of the Senate minority bloc on Monday condemned police raids in Calabarzon on Sunday that killed nine activists, as they called for an investigation and also said the govenrment's "high level of disrespect towards basic human rights" contributed to the killings.

The Philippine National Police mantains those killed had fired on teams who were to serve search warrants.

In separate statements, senators of the four-member minority sought to describe President Rodrigo Duterte's latest remarks for security forces to "ignore human rights" are part of a "long-standing policy" of the administration.

"There is no denying that this scale of violence, injustice, and impunity is being perpetuated by this administration," said Sen. Risa Hontiveros. "The resident's recent televised threats of red-tagging and outright murder are unbridled human rights violations that must be held to account."

In remarks in his speeches, the president has often cursed, mocked or threatened his critics. He has also sought to discredit human rights groups, actvists and members of the media. 

He has also repeatedly and publicly declared that he has no regard for human rights and that he will back security personnel facing charges in relation to their jobs. 

"Whether it's drugs, insurgency, COVID-19 or poverty, he indeed governs through violence and killings," Sen. Leila de Lima, an outspoken critic who has been detained for four years now on drug charges she says were made up, said. "[His] latest marching order is just a reiteration and a reminder of his long-standing policy of brutally eliminating perceived enemies."

Body cams crucial vs 'nanlaban' claim

Apart from the nine killed, Calabarzon police said six were arrested while nine remained at large. The operations, according to regional spokesperson Police Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, were based on 24 search warrants that led to "armed encounters" on Sunday.

Police have often used the narrative that people they have killed had violently resisted arrest although a Department of Justice review of deaths in the "war on drugs" found that law enforcement violated protocols and did not properly document cases where people shot dead allegedly fired first.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday that a DOJ-led task force will look into the activists' deaths. He also did not dismiss the possibility of it falling under the Administrative Order 35 task force, a body formed to probe into extrajudicial killings.

In his statement, Sen. Francis Pangilinan stressed the need for the Philippine National Police to fast-track the implementation of requiring cops to wear body cameras.

"Without the body cameras, the 'nanlaban' (they fought back) excuse of the police for killing their captives would always be under a cloud of suspicion," he said. "Why are these cameras not being used? It should not be too complicated to use one."

The PNP has yet to provide updates on the procurement of the cameras deapite money being allocated for it after the 2017 murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos by three Caloocan City police officers.

The delayed procurement led members of the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to call for a probe, especially with cops figuring in more cases of police brutality in 2020. 

RELATEDWhatever happened to: Body cameras for the Philippine National Police

Pangilinan added: "Condemnation and outrage would be an understatement over the fate that befell the victims. Have we become a nation of butchers of our fellow Filipinos?"

Despite senators' criticism over the seeming effect of Duterte's remarks, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in today's briefing said the president's order was only legal with clashes between government and armed rebels still prevailing.

But, he said authorities will investigate the deaths of the nine activists as he added that they were not armed, a comment that effectively disputes the Calabarzon police's claim of an armed encounter. — Christian Deiparine

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