MANILA, June 18 (Mabuhay) — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday urged the government to investigate the killing of three Lumad, including a 12-year-old child, in a military operation in Surigao del Sur.

CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia denounced the deaths and said their Caraga office will dispatch an investigation team to conduct an independent probe into the incident.

“While we wait for the results of the independent probe, the commission urges the government to shed light on these deaths and conduct its own investigation to bring justice to the death,” she said in a statement.

Relatives could barely recognize the lifeless bodies of sixth grader Angel Rivaz, her sister Lenie, and her cousin Willy.

Rights group Karapatan Caraga said the 3rd Special Forces Battalion shot the victims on the afternoon of June 15 while they were farming abaca.

The military, on the other hand, claimed that the victims were communist rebels who were part of the Sub-Regional Sentro de Grabidad Southland, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee. The three, the military said, died in an “intense firefight.”

The CHR said the international humanitarian law requires the observance of the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants “at all times” as well as the protection of children and other vulnerable individuals not involved in hostilities. (MNS)