Robredo condemns bloody Calabarzon raids: It was a massacre

Robredo condemns bloody Calabarzon raids: It was a massacre
Camp BGen Vicente P. Lim in Calamba City, Laguna is the headquarters of Police Regional Office 4-A.
PRO 4-A Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:31 p.m.) — The deaths of nine activists across Calabarzon on Sunday was a massacre, Vice President Leni Robredo said late Monday as she called for an investigation into the raids where police said those killed died because they fired on law enforcement officers.

Police arrested six others in the raids, which they said were planned to confiscate illegal guns and explosives reported to them by informants.

"There is no other way to describe this: It was a massacre. And it came just two days after the president himself ordered state forces to 'ignore human rights,' kill communist rebels, and 'finish them off,' in his rant before the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict," the vice president said.

Although Robredo, a member of the minority Liberal Party, has been critical of government policies in the past, the statement on Monday was more strongly worded than usual as she said the deaths on Sunday are on top of those killed in the ongoing "war on drugs", which has been happening amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has killed thousands.

"We strongly condemn the killings in Calabarzon, in the same way that we condemn the killings of so many innocent people under this administration," she said in Filipino.

"Our call is for justice. We are calling for a clean and independent investigation to make sure those who should be held accountable will be held to account," she also said.

The Philippine National Police is standing by the operations, and has challenged critics to file complaints over alleged abuses in how the search warrants were served.

"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," Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, PNP spokesman, said. 

READ: DOJ-led task force on extrajudicial killings to investigate 'Bloody Sunday' raids

Investigations announced

In a press briefing earlier Monday, the Palace assured an investigation into the killings.

"I am very sure that (the killings) would be investigated and if there are people who committed wrongdoing, they would be prosecuted and punished," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. "With regard to the nine who were killed, we will investigate... when they were killed, they were unarmed."

The Department of Justice-led panel on extrajudicial killings will also investigate the deaths.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier in the year flagged police officers who did not follow protocols in deadly “drug war” operations in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the justice secretary did not hide his disappointment with the latest incident of killings.

“I was really hoping that with the statement I made before the UN, our law enforcers would be more careful in their operations but these things continue to happen so we really need to sit down with PNP with the [Philippine Drug Eenforcement Agency] with other law enforcement to make sure that this… could be avoided. We could do something about it,” he said Monday.

The Commission on Human Rights has also announced it will investigate the killings as it issued a reminder that remarks from leaders can "embolden some to act with abuse and impunity." 

READ: CHR: PNP non-cooperative in recent probes involving cops

'Difficult and dangerous times'

In her statement on Monday night, the vice president acknowledged that "these are difficult and dangerous times" and advised the public to "reach out to colleagues, check on your friends and always be careful."

She said, however, that this should not mean giving in to fear, which she said is what the perceived crackdown on dissent is meant to do.

"Instead, this emphasizes the call to show that we are ready to come together and link arms to protect each other," she said. "That we are not afraid to take a stand not just for our families and for people we know, but also for others who believe in good governance, freedom and democracy," she said.

"And that they will have to face each of us if they want to stop us from saying this truth: The Filipino people deserve better than this murderous regime."  — Jonathan de Santos with reports from Kristine Joy Patag and The STAR/Alexis Romero

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