MANILA, Mar 10 (Mabuhay) — International group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday (PHL time) said the police operations in Calabarzon that led to the arrests and deaths of activists show the need for member countries of the United Nations to look into the “worsening” human rights situation in the Philippines.
HRW said the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should consider having a “rapid response unit” probe the police operations.
“The Southern Luzon raids were apparent politically motivated killings that the police and military have sought to justify with unconvincing justifications that echo ‘drug war’ claims. UN member states should see through this deadly deception and press for international action that would hold the Duterte administration to account,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.
“The Philippine government’s ‘dirty war’ against political activists needs to stop,” he added.
“Concerned governments should support meaningful efforts to hold the Duterte government to account for grave human rights violations,” Robertson said.
On Sunday, nine activists were killed and six others were arrested during raids conducted by police in Calabarzon. Armed with search warrants, the police moved to search for illegal firearms said to be in the possession of the activists.
Police said the nine who died resisted arrest.
“The police didn’t want any encounter with anyone subject of search warrants. We had 16 arrests in fact. It implies caution on both sides. But there was resistance by some in the serving of warrants,” PNP spokesperson Police Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana told GMA News Online.
“The nine who died fought it out with the police. And there is nothing the police could do but to respond under the principle of self-preservation,” Usana added.
However the relatives of those arrested as well as leftist group Bayan said they were unarmed.
The incident came two days after President Rodrigo Duterte — whose controversial drug war has cost thousands of lives — repeated an order for security forces to “ignore human rights” and kill communist rebels.
Hundreds of activists, journalists and lawyers have been killed since Duterte took power in 2016, rights groups say.
HRW also said the Calabarzon raids were similar to the raids conducted in Capiz and Iloilo in December wherein nine members of an indigenous peoples group died.
The group also said leftist activists have long been targeted by the government in its counterinsurgency operations, which often led to killings, as detailed in HRW reports in 2007 and 2011.
The United Nations said Tuesday it was “appalled” by the apparent arbitrary killing of nine activists by security forces targeting alleged communist insurgents.
“We are appalled by the apparently arbitrary killing of nine activists,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.
Meanwhile, the body tasked to prosecute politically motivated killings will determine this week whether to launch a deeper investigation into the said police operations, Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said.
Speaking at a Palace news conference on Tuesday, Sugay said the inter-agency committee is conducting a vetting process to determine if the incidents fall under its jurisdiction.
Otherwise, the matter will be referred to the law enforcement agencies like the PNP for a “regular investigation,” he said.
The Commission on Human Rights meanwhile on Monday said it has launched an investigation into the series of police raids. (MNS)