Robredo wants ‘honest-to-goodness’ probe of slaying of farmers
ILOILO CITY — Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday said policemen involved in the coordinated operations wherein 14 farmers in Negros Oriental province were shot dead should not be immediately cleared before a “detailed investigation” was conducted.
“What we are seeking is an honest-to-goodness investigation for the sake not only of those who died but more so of their families,” she told reporters here on the sidelines of the launching of her “Ahon Laylayan” coalition.
Philippine National Police chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, has defended the military-backed operations on March 30 in Canlaon City and the towns of Manjuyod and Santa Catalina in Negros Oriental were purportedly to serve search warrants for loose firearms against members or sympathizers of the New People’s Army.
He also denied that the 14 fatalities were summarily executed “tokhang style” similar to what happened to suspected drug personalities.
Albayalde had relieved the Negros Oriental police director and the chiefs of police of Canlaon and the two towns.
Human rights and farmers’ groups, which conducted a fact-finding mission by interviewing relatives of the victims and other witnesses, insisted that the farmers were summarily executed and some of their valuables were taken by the police.
“There will be a big impact on the trust and confidence on our justice system if those responsible for this horrifying incident will be held responsible,” Robredo said.
Former Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, a senatorial candidate of the Otso Diretso slate, said it was disappointing that Albayalde had already ruled out irregularities in the police operations.
“It appears that the (operatives) seem to have violated their own rules of procedures. If this can be proven in the (Commission on Human Rights, or CHR) investigation, (Albayalde) should file a case against their own personnel,” Tañada said.
The CHR in Central Visayas on Wednesday administered oaths to witnesses in the killings. Lawyer Arvin Odron, CHR Central Visayas director, said they secured “enough” testimonies from the relatives of the victims as well as other witnesses.
“Many are willing to testify. However, I instructed our investigators to make sure the testimonies don’t just echo what the others said. They have to be vital to the investigation,” Odron told the Inquirer by telephone.
Within the week, a forensic team from the CHR will also conduct an autopsy on the victims. So far, five families agreed to have the bodies of their relatives undergo forensic examinations.
“I hope the others will also allow us so that he will have a clear picture of what really happened,” Odron said.
Around 40 members of human rights and militant groups held a picket at Plazoletagay, a main intersection in Iloilo City, as part of the protest actions to demand justice for the slain farmers.
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