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14 killed in PNP, Army operations vs loose firearms in Negros Oriental

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Negros Oriental (outlined in red) –Image from Google Maps

BACOLOD CITY — Fourteen persons were killed in two towns and one city in Negros Oriental on Saturday in coordinated operations by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Army against illegal firearms held by suspected communist rebels.

A police officer was also wounded and 15 people who were the subjects of search warrants were arrested.

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But human rights groups accused the police and soldiers of targeting leaders and members of militant organizations, pointing out that among those killed were the head of a militant farmers group in Canlaon City and several of its members.

Col. Raul Tacaca, director of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office, said eight were killed in Canlaon City, two in Santa Catalina town, and four in Manjuyod while allegedly resisting to be searched for illegal firearms.

Tacaca said the operation, which started at 1 a.m., was part of the campaign of the Philippine National Police in Central Visayas against loose firearms.

He said the suspects who were killed fought back against the operatives, who came from the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion, the Special Action Force, various police stations, and the Philippine Army.

“They were suspected of being the ones who attacked and killed policemen and soldiers here,” Tacaca told the INQUIRER.

He said they could not provide the names of the dead yet as they were collating their data.

Tacaca said a police officer was hit in the buttocks and was taken to the Silliman University Medical Center in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

Targeting farmers’ groups?

Clarissa Singson, secretary general of Karapatan-Negros, said that among those killed was Edgardo Avelino, 59-year-old chairperson of the farmers’ group Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon.

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Also killed was Avelino’s brother 53-year-old brother, Ismael Avelino.

Singson alleged that unidentified armed men in civilian clothes barged into the houses of the brothers in Barangay Panubigan and gunned them down.

“Clearly, they are targeting unarmed leaders and members of farmers’ organizations,” she said.

Some of the fatalities were identified as Melchor Panares, 67; Mario Panares, 46; Rogelio Ricomuno, 52; Ricky Ricomuno, 28; Gonzalo Rosales, 47; and Genes Palmares, 54; Franken Lariosa, and Ano Enojo Rapada.

Karapatan condemned the killings and demanded an independent investigation of the incident.

“This is unconscionable,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in a statement.

“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,” she added. /atm

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