CHR: 89 ‘human rights defenders’ killed from 2017 to 2019
MANILA, Philippines — Eighty-nine cases involving the deaths of human rights activists from 2017 to 2019 are now being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an official said Friday.
“The data that we have from 2017 to 2019, we have a total of 89, not to include the ones happening now. We call them human rights defenders,” CHR commissioner Leah Armamento said over ABS-CBN News Channel when asked about the number of killings of activists and members of progressive groups being investigated by the commission.
Armamento said that the CHR is also investigating the recent killings of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall “Randy” Echanis, who was found dead in his apartment in Quezon City on August 10, and that of Negros-based activist Zara Alvarez on August 17.
“Our hands are full now,” said Armamento.
However, the CHR was not able to complete all its investigations on the 89 incidents.
“There are gaps which we cannot determine, so it has not progressed even to the prosecutor’s office, not yet because we don’t have enough evidence,” Armamento said.
She also noted that some human rights defenders were red-tagged or linked to the communist movement before they were killed.
“They noticed that surveillance is conducted on them and eventually they are tagged by the PNP or security sectors as leftist groups,” she said.
According to the CHR official, investigators of the commission are also having a hard time conducting investigations on these killings due to community quarantine guidelines imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Their movements are limited so the investigations are stalled. They cannot proceed as they used to do because of the current limitations of the movement,” she said.
Asked if the police are participating in these investigations being initiated by the CHR, she said: “Sadly, no.”
Armamento noted an earlier agreement between the CHR and former Philippine National Police chief and now Senator Ronald Dela Rosa for access by Commission investigators to police reports and records on the killings of human rights defenders and other individuals.
“Unfortunately there was an order from the President himself not to give the CHR the data. That also happened in one of our investigations in Metro Manila where our investigators were not given because there is an order from the higher-ups. We didn’t know who are the higher-ups,” she said.
Nevertheless, she said the CHR has trained its own investigators to conduct probes even without reports from the police, “because at the moment, we cannot rely on the PNP to cooperate with us.”
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