MANILA, Philippines – Human rights groups on Tuesday, April 2, called for an independent investigation into the police operations that killed 14 people in Negros Oriental.
"A prompt, impartial, and independent investigation into the Negros Oriental killings is desperately needed," said Carlos Conde of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia Division.
"Concerned governments, particularly European Union countries that have supported criminal justice reform in the Philippines, should be raising their concerns loud and clear over the deteriorating situation," he added.
Karapatan slammed the police and demanded an immediate probe.
"Ten killings in a day is the handiwork of vicious butchers and men in uniform intoxicated by power, thinking they can just do whatever they like without consequences," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
"As we condole with the families of all those killed, we join our voices in the call for justice and accountability for these heinous crimes perpetrated by the government."
The 14 people killed during simultaneous police operations in Negros Oriental last Saturday, March 30, resisted arrest, according to Colonel Raul Tacaca, who has since been sacked as provincial police director.
But the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said resisting arrest should not automatically be accepted as an excuse. The commission instructed its regional office to conduct an investigation.
"Even claims of resisting arrest to justify fatalities need to be tried before courts to ensure that there are no lapses and ascertain if the circumstances really warrant the offense from the police, resulting in the curtailment of life," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.
HRW's Conde, meanwhile, denounced this "excuse" and highlighted the trend that perpetrators of killings "have rarely been brought to justice."
"By playing the 'self-defense' card, the authorities will make getting redress for victims even harder," he said.
Aside from Tacaca, the local police chiefs of Canlaon City, Santa Catalina, and Manjuyod were also sacked. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.