The human rights watchdog Amnesty International said member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) should launch an independent probe on the “rapidly worsening” human rights situation in the country, after nine activists were killed in Calabarzon police’s raids over the weekend.
Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement it is “deeply alarmed” that police operations now seem to be used to run after activists and human rights advocates under the Duterte administration a few days after President Duterte issued the “kill’ order on suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
Other human rights groups noted that “Tokhang” killings appear to now extend from drug suspects to NPA sympathizers.
In raids on what activist groups are calling “Bloody Sunday,” police killed nine activists in what they said were armed encounters that happened as law enforcement officers were serving search warrants.
“Various groups, including the UN, have cast doubts on this self-defense narrative by the police,” said Butch Olano, Amnesty International’s section director for the Philippines, who added there are cases where documented testimonies have contradicted police claims. “This deception should be exposed and condemned.”
“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 spokesman Harry Roque said on March 8. “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 extra-judicial killings will also investigate the deaths.
Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra who earlier filed a report to the UN Human Rights Council said, “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 Enforcement Agency) to make sure that this… could be avoided. We could do something about it.”
The Commission on Human Rights 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.”
Amnesty said it was among groups that were concerned that the council’s move could be perceived as a sign to “continue with impunity.”
“Unfortunately, in light of the escalating attacks and killings of activists, human rights defenders, Indigenous people and other groups targeted by government, this seems to be the message received,” Olano said.
The group said member states bear the responsibility to ensure that the Philippines honors its commitments to the UNHRC. It added: “Countries must now take overdue action and launch an independent international investigation to address this alarming situation and end the cycle of impunity that continues to fuel violations.”