House probe on death of key witness in Tumandok killings sought
MANILA, Philippines — An investigation into the death of a barangay captain, who was supposed to be a key witness in the killing of several members and leaders of an indigenous peoples’ community in police operations in Iloilo and Capiz, is being pushed in the House of Representatives.
The Makabayan bloc on Tuesday filed House Resolution No. 1617 which urges the lower chamber, through the committee on human rights, to conduct the probe on the death of barangay captain Julie Catamin.
The House bloc includes Bayan Muna Reps. Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate, and Ferdinand Gaite; Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas; ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro; and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.
“The brazen killing of Brgy. Captain Julie Catamin is a highly condemnable act,” the lawmakers said.
“The threats and harassment and eventual killing of Catamin creates a chilling effect on all individuals, ad even local officials, who speak out against questionable police operations and rights violations,” they added.
The lawmakers further said Congress should “defend the rights of our people and check on excesses and violations committed against them.”
“Laws and rules should serve the interest of our people, and should not be weaponized to suppress their rights and oppress them,” the lawmakers said.
Msgr. Meliton Oso, executive director of the Jaro Archdiocese Social Action Center, earlier told the Inquirer that Catamin was supposed to be a key witness in the defense of Tumandok tribe members who were arrested and gunned down in the December 30 police operation in Capiz and Iloilo provinces.
Catamin, who served as barangay captain of Roosevelt in Capiz, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has said that it was investigating if there were lapses in the operations and determine if any of those involved could be held liable for the deaths of the indigenous people.
“The subjects posed danger to the implementing teams,” Lt. Col. Gervacio Balmaceda, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Western Visayas, earlier said.
“They (IPs) have firearms and they fired first,” he added.
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