EU welcomes PH gov’t assurance of probe into Calabarzon killings
MANILA, Philippines — The European Union (EU) delegation here welcomes the Philippine government’s assurance that it would investigate the killing of nine activists in Calabarzon last Sunday.
In a statement on Wednesday, the delegation recalled that the government had already expressed commitment to protecting human rights and ensuring accountability for abuses — especially amid reports of the use of excessive force during law enforcement operations.
Last March 7, nine individuals whom rights groups said were mere activists were killed in simultaneous police operations in the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite. Despite progressive groups condemning the killings, the Philippine National Police (PNP) maintained that the activists fought back.
“The Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines welcomes the announcement by the Government of the Philippines to investigate the killings of nine individuals […] Reports on the use of excessive force against unarmed individuals and alleged irregularities in the law enforcement operations have raised concerns,” EU said.
“We recall the commitment undertaken by the Philippines at the Human Rights Council to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses, in accordance with due process under national courts of law and in full compliance with its international human rights obligations,” it added.
The EU also mentioned its meeting with Philippine officials, which ended in an understanding about working to protect human rights and its defenders.
“The EU Delegation recalls that during the 5 February 2021 meeting of the Sub-Committee on Good Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights under the EU-Philippines Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the EU and the Philippines discussed strengthening accountability and investigative measures,” the Union said.
“The EU and the Philippines agreed on the need to acknowledge and to protect human rights defenders and enable their work in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,” it added.
While the PNP claimed that the operations were legitimate as it was enforced through a search warrant, several activists condemned the action, pointing out that it happened just days after President Rodrigo Duterte told law enforcers in a televised briefing to kill communist rebels.
Several lawyers also questioned PNP’s alleged abuse of search warrants, saying they had turned into “death warrants” for members of militant and activist groups.
According to reports, among the people killed in the operations were Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Cavite coordinator Manny Asuncion and fisherfolk rights advocates Ariel and Chai Lemita Evangelista, who were husband and wife.
As of now, the Commission on Human Rights and the task force on extrajudicial killings headed by the Department of Justice have vowed to conduct separate investigations.
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