NEGROS ORIENTAL, Philippines – Fourteen people were killed while a cop was injured during simultaneous police operations in this province on Saturday, March 30.
Police Colonel Raul Tacaca, police provincial director, said 8 were killed in Canlaon City, 4 in Manjuyod town, and two in Sta Catalina town. He identified the wounded cop as Corporal Ian Puerto of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion.
Tacaca said the fatalities were suspected members of the Special Partisan Unit of the New People's Army (NPA) who resisted arrest during the service of search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
The police operations came a day after the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, marked its 50th founding anniversary.
The operations in the 3 localities and in Mabinay town also led to the arrest of at least 15 persons, who were alleged NPA supporters.
Buy-bust operations were also conducted in different localities in the province.
As of Saturday night, the Negros Oriental police have conducted at least 60 operations.
Tacaca said they did not violate human rights during the operations as they followed the right procedure. He added the deaths were unfortunate but the suspects resisted arrest and police only defended themselves.
But human rights and farmers’ groups claimed the operations were targeted at activists, saying that leaders of local peasant organizations long tagged by government forces as “legal fronts” of the communist rebel movement were among those killed and arrested.
In a statement, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines demanded justice for the slain farmers.
“We strongly condemn the massacre of 14 farmers today in three municipalities across Negros Oriental," it said.