NBI to hold parallel probe into police killing of Albay activists

NBI to hold parallel probe into police killing of Albay activists
This July 26, 2021 photo shows the protest slogan that activists Marlon Naperi and Jemar Palero were painting before they died in what police said was a shootout.
Photo from the Facebook page of Anakbayan Laguna

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation will be conducting a separate probe into the killings of two activists in Albay who were shot dead by police.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued Department Order 175 directing NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor to conduct an investigation into the killings of Marlon Naperi and Jemar Palero.

Albay police shot dead Naperi, 38, and Palero, 22 at the Banao Bridge in Barangay Lower Binogcasan in Guinobatan in the early morning of July 26. They had been found spraying a protest slogan on the bridge calling for President Rodrigo Duterte's downfall.

"Duterte Ibagsak (Down with Duterte)," the protest would have read, but the two were shot before they were able to finish. The killing happened just hours before President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his last State of the Nation Address.

The department order authorizes the NBI to file, if evidence warrants, appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in the incident.

Although investigation into the deaths is still ongoing, the Supreme Court in 2013 ruled in Aguilar vs Department of Justice et al.—a case that involved a suspect being killed in police custody— that "when the accused admits killing the victim, but invokes a justifying circumstance, the constitutional presumption of innocence is effectively waived and the burden of proving the existence of such circumstance shifts to the accused."

Guevarra also directed Distor to submit progress reports on the investigation directly to the Office of the Secretary within ten days and periodically after.

This is not the first time the NBI is conducting a probe in incidents where police officers are accused of violations.

RELATED: Duterte orders NBI to solely probe into PNP-PDEA shootout | NBI set to probe shooting between Sulu cops and military

The Philippine National Police’s Internal Affairs Service is conducting its own probe into the matter. An Inquirer report said the Commission on Human Rights in Bicol is also looking into the incident.

Police General Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, ordered the relief of two unnamed Albay police officers tagged in the killing. Police Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, Bicol regional police director, was also directed to place the police officers under restrictive custody while the investigation is ongoing.

Police claimed Palero and Naperi opened fire and a shootout happened, the usual “nanlaban” narrative in the killings of progressive.

Rights alliance group Karapatan however said the "nanlaban" claims by the police are "unbelievable tall tales because both [are] unarmed activists and they surely do not bear arms while doing graffiti."

Eleazar has appealed to the public to let the investigation take its course before making conclusions on the incident until the final report and recommendation are done. 

"We also call on those who witnessed or knew about the incident to cooperate with the investigators to clarify this case," the police general also said. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Franco Luna

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