human rights in the Philippines

EU, ‘concerned’ over Calabarzon killings, welcomes Duterte gov’t probe

Sofia Tomacruz

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EU, ‘concerned’ over Calabarzon killings, welcomes Duterte gov’t probe

AFTERMATH. The Workers' Assistance Center office in Dasmariñas, Cavite, after the police raid that killed BAYAN Cavite secretary-general Emmanuel 'Manny' Asuncion on March 7, 2021.

File photo from PAMANTIK KMU

The EU reminds the government of its commitment to the UN Human Rights Council, and its agreement with the bloc to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses

The European Union (EU) on Wednesday March 10, welcomed the Duterte government’s move to investigate the killing of nine activists in Calabarzon, after reports on the offensive against activist groups had “raised concerns.”

In a statement on Wednesday night, the EU reminded the Philippines of its commitment made with the bloc last February 5, where the both parties “agreed on the need to acknowledge and to protect human rights defenders and enable their work in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.”

“The Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines welcomes the announcement by the Government of the Philippines to investigate the killings of nine individuals by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on 7 March 2021 in Calabarzon region,” it said.

It added, “Reports on the use of excessive force against unarmed individuals and alleged irregularities in the law enforcement operations have raised concerns.”

The March 7 operations, tagged as “Bloody Sunday” in the Philippines, saw police and military serve a total of 24 search warrants in the Calabarzon region that led to 9 deaths and 6 arrests. It was one of the biggest one-day offensives of the police and military against activist groups, many of which have been red-tagged by the Duterte administration.

The killings happened a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered state forces to “kill” and “finish off” communist rebels in encounters, the latest in the violent rhetoric used by the Philippine leader in his administration’s crackdown on activists. 

“Disappointed” by the bloody operations, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he would include the Calabarzon killings in the Department of Justice’s task force probe into political killings. 

The justice secretary said he was “disappointed” that there were still killings in the police operations in Calabarzon, when he had already announced to the United Nations that the police violated rules in their anti-drug operations that led to deaths of drug suspects.

Given that killings still continued, Guevarra said the justice department “really needs” to sit down with the police and other law enforcement “to make sure na hindi na masyadong mangyayari itong ganito (that these things don’t happen anymore), so it could be avoided.”

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The March 7 crackdown had also been condemned by the United Nations right office as “apparently arbitrary killings,” adding that the government’s investigation into this incident and similar incidents of violence “will be a critical test for the domestic investigative mechanisms it has established for cases of this kind.”

On Tuesday, the EU reminded the Philippines of this and its commitment at the UN Human Rights Council, where it vowed to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses. (READ: PH ‘appalled’ by UN rights office ‘prejudgment’ of Calabarzon killings)

“We recall the commitment undertaken by the Philippines at the Human Rights Council to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses, in accordance with due process under national courts of law and in full compliance with its international human rights obligations,” it said. 

The EU condoled with families of victims, saying it looked forward to the results of the Duterte government’s investigation. – 

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.