Activist groups condemn killing of land defenders in Panay
MANILA, Philippines — Several activist groups have condemned the killing of indigenous people (IPs) in Panay island who were allegedly merely defending their ancestral land, calling on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the spate of violence.
According to reports from Karapatan, nine members of the Tumandok tribe were killed while 17 others were arrested allegedly in a joint operation of the military and the police.
“Human rights watchdog Karapatan called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the reported killings of nine indigenous Tumandok leaders and the arrests of 17 others in joint military and police operations in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo,” Karapatan said in a statement.
Reports on Thursday night showed that the operation was led by the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) and the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion.
While relatives and witnesses said that the killed IPs did not resist arrest and that the pieces of evidence like firearms were planted, police insisted that it was a regular operation against loose firearms, and that the IPs — supposedly members of the New People’s Army — opened fire at law enforcers.
But other organizations like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and progressive party-list groups in Congress say that the style of these operations bore a similarity to previous incidents involving human rights defenders and other activists.
“The gruesome Rizal Day murders follow the standard police modus of securing a questionable warrant from Manila and using the search warrant to enter the premises of targets, plant evidence, kill the targets or arrest them on trumped up charges,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
“Taon-taon laging may kaso ang militar at kapulisan ng pagpatay sa ating mga katutubo na tumitindig sa kanilang lupang ninuno pero hindi napapanagot dahil back up lagi ang Pangulo. Kaya naman sa lumalalang kultura ng impyunidad sa ating bansa, marapat na singilin ang estado,” Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said in a separate statement.
(Every year the military and police have cases of killing our natives who stood on their land but haven’t been held liable because of the backing of the President. That is why in the worsening culture of impunity in our country, it is good to charge the state.)
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate even claimed that what happened in Panay island was similar to what transpired in the Negros Island, back when PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas was still chief of the Police Regional Office – 7 (PRO-7).
“This is the same modus operandi used by state forces in Negros Oriental in December 27, 2018 early morning raids when now PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas was the regional commander of the Central Visayas PNP,” Zarate insisted.
“Six farmers were killed then and at least 31 were also arrested during that time. They were just farmers asserting their rights to their land. With Sinas as the PNP chief, this type of questionable and bloody operations is apparently becoming the norm,” he added.
But Western Visayas CIDG chief Col. Gervacio Balmaceda said on Wednesday several firearms and explosives were seized from the homes of those killed and arrested.
“The nine died when they fired at positions of law enforcement officers,” Balmaceda said.
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