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9 killed in anti-activist raids in Calabarzon

Elizabeth Marcelo, Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star) - March 8, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Nine persons were reportedly killed including a leader of militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan following simultaneous crackdowns against activists in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal early yesterday morning.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed the incident, saying nine were killed, nine arrested and six others “escaped” when police officers served  search warrants at the offices and houses of the activists.

Calabarzon police director Brig. Gen. Felipe Natividad said explosives and firearms were seized during the raids.

As of 3 p.m. yesterday, police said six persons were killed in Rizal, two in Batangas and one in Cavite.

Bayan urged Congress and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the incidents, which it described as brutal and deadly.

“We demand that all those arrested be freed and an independent, credible investigation into the simultaneous raids be conducted by Congress and the CHR to hold accountable those responsible for the incidents,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in a statement.

Bayan said some of the warrants used by the police were issued by Judge Jose Lorenzo de la Rosa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 4.

“We demand that the Supreme Court take immediate steps to prevent the further weaponization of search warrants and other judicial instruments to silence activists, political dissenters and government critics,” Reyes said.

According to Bayan, among those killed was Manny Asuncion, Bayan-Cavite coordinator, who was shot dead during a raid at the Workers Assistance Center in Dasmariñas.

Also killed were couple Chai Lemita and Ariel Evangelista, staff members of environmental protection group Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan or Umalpas Ka.

The couple’s 10-year-old child managed to escape, according to Karapatan-Timog Katagalugan.

The Evangelistas, who live in a coastal village in Nasugbu, Batangas, were reportedly taken away at around 4 a.m. Neighbors said they heard gunshots.

The couple were later found by Chai’s mother Inda Lemita in a funeral parlor in Nasugbu, Bayan said.

Meanwhile, Mags Camoral, spokesperson for Bayan-Laguna chapter, was among those arrested when police raided the Defend Yulo Farmers campaign headquarters in Cabuyao town.

Also raided was the house of Bayan-Batangas coordinator Lino Baez in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, although it was yet to be ascertained if he was among those arrested.

“These attacks on Bayan leaders, as well as other activists and human rights defenders in Southern Tagalog, came on the heels of President Duterte’s order to the PNP and AFP to kill all suspected rebels,” Reyes said.

He was referring to Duterte’s meeting with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday night, wherein the President supposedly ordered the police and military to disregard human rights and kill all suspected communists.

“It is no coincidence that the AFP Southern Luzon Command is headed by the notorious Red-tagger Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., who can only be too eager to follow his commander-in-chief’s order,” Reyes said.

In a separate statement, rights group Karapatan called for an independent investigation into the incidents.

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas or Pamalakaya blamed Duterte for the killings.

Progressive groups in the House of Representatives denounced the simultaneous police operations, describing it as a “murderous rampage of government forces.”

“How many people accused of resisting arrest, how many more ‘raids’? Stop this murderous rampage. Search warrants are weaponized to crack down on activists, peasants, trade union organizers and human rights defenders,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said in a statement. –  Ed Amoroso

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