Up to regional police to explain, but PNP stands by bloody raids
PNP headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City
PNP Public Information Office

Up to regional police to explain, but PNP stands by bloody raids

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - March 8, 2021 - 5:24pm

MANILA, Philippines — National police leadership said the regional police of Calabarzon would be in a better position to comment on the killing of nine activists in their homes and offices in raids on Sunday to serve search warrants but said that these were legitimate police operations.

In a statement, Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, the PNP's spokesperson, said that national headquarters would leave it to the Police Regional Office 4A to address criticism over the killings, which police claim were caused by activists shooting at them.

To recall, the joint searches across the region yielded six reported killed in Rizal, two in Batangas and one in Cavite. 

"The NHQ will let the regional director handle this concern and submit update to the Chief, PNP. In the meantime, the PNP leadership encourages our policemen on the ground to intensify the drive against violators of law, more so on the strength of either arrest or search warrants," Usana's statement read. 

"That's the mission of the PNP, and we don't mind those criticizing the efforts of our police officers who are just doing their job to serve and protect the people," he also said. 

The PNP's own social media accounts red-tags figures critical of the Duterte administration and routinely accuses them of being communist rebels without proof. 

READ: Dura 'Likes': PNP social media rules and what police actually post 

Usana brushed off criticisms over the killings, saying the warrants that led to them were legitimate.  The warrants served in Calbarzon were signed by First Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo dela Rosa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 4. 

"Issuance of search warrants is as difficult as getting arrest warrants. There is deposition of witnesses and the examining judge has to make probing questions. Serving of warrants also requires the presence of at least two witnesses. The operations at the least were legitimate," he said.

At the time the killings happened, Police Gen. Debold Sinas, the chief of the PNP, along with the PNP Command Group, was at a Sunday Mass at the Manila Cathedral.

The killings also took place just days after Duterte himself ordered state forces: "If the enemy is holding a gun, kill them. Kill them right away...Ignore human rights. That is my order. I’ll be the one to go to jail. No problem."

Usana did not respond to Philstar.com's queries when the killings were first reported Sunday afternoon. 

"With search warrants, the police simply responded to the call of our communities to be protected from individual persons found with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. If on the contrary, some critics have evidence in their favor, they can go to the court to file their complaints," he added. 

"Otherwise, their claim of questioning the legitimacy of police operations is, as usual, left in emptiness."

Lack of transparency 'alarming' 

In a statement, progressive group Akbayan called for an independent and impartial investigation into the killings and demanded the police and military to "fully explain to the public the details of their so-called raids, and the circumstances that led their 'operating units' to use lethal force against the said activists."

"The PNP and AFP's lack of transparency on this matter is extremely alarming and leads many citizens to believe that this was carried out to fulfill Mr. Rodrigo Duterte's recent order to “kill all” alleged communists and dismiss human rights. Mr. Duterte's order does not distinguish between armed communist rebels, and noncombatant activists, opposition figures, and human rights advocates," Akbayan's statement read. 

"This order is a gross violation of Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, which condemns state killings of non-combatants and checks abuses of state authority against civilians. It is a declaration of open season to harass, intimidate and even kill all those who oppose this government, including the political opposition."

In the aftermath of Sunday's killings, rights groups said the government campaign against communist rebels also targets legal dissenters. 

"Violence, has no place in modern democracy, whether done by the state to kill alleged drug dependents and communists, or by non-state actors to eliminate 'counter-revolutionaries.' The same must be said for solutions to the people's social problems: not death penalty, not a bloody war on drugs, and certainly, not guns pointed at so-called enemies of the revolution, but participatory and democratic governance that listens to the people, allows them to participate, and works with them each step of the way," Akbayan also said. 

"Whether the goal is better governance and law enforcement, or to promote the 'highest form of struggle' for democracy, violence as a sectarian ideology promoted by either state or non-state actors is not an alternative. Democracy cannot thrive in a climate of vengeful violence."

— with reports from Christian Deiparine  

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