Human rights agency starts probe of Red leaders’ slays
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Thursday that it had started an independent investigation of the deaths of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Ericson Acosta and peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez in Negros Occidental on Nov. 30.
“It is expedient to probe the truth and deliver justice in all allegations of arbitrary killing that desecrate the right to life,” the CHR said in a statement. The probe is being conducted by its regional office in the Western Visayas.
The CHR also asked the military to conduct a parallel investigation “as the State has the prime duty to protect life, CHR expects parallel probe by the concerned authorities.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines welcomed the CHR investigation and noted that it had cooperated with the rights commission many times in the past, but asked the public to be wary of the “lies” being “fabricated” by supporters of the communist insurgency. “We welcome the initiative of CHR. CHR is our partner in many activities like seminars to inculcate among our soldiers our duties to protect human rights,” said Col. Medel Aguilar, the spokesperson for the AFP.
But while Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the Army’s Visayas Command, was “not happy” with the CHR probe, he said he was confident that the military would be vindicated in the end.
‘We will be proven right’
“We cannot prevent them to do what they have to do but we definitely deny that there is human rights violation in that operation … We’re not happy to hear that but … in the end I think we will be proven right,” said Arevalo, who is also commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.
The military claims that Acosta and his companion Jimenez, believed to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), were killed in a military operation in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, on Nov. 30, but the NDFP and its supporters dispute that claim.
Shortly after the incident, the NDFP said Acosta was a “peace consultant” who was only checking on the situation of farmers in Negros Occidental, and that he was unarmed, captured alive and allegedly summarily executed.
The situation in the area has been tense since October when thousands of residents in some hinterland villages of neighboring Himamaylan City fled clashes between the military and the NPA.
Displaced by clashes
More than 18,000 residents of the villages of Carabalan and Cabadiangan and about 3,000 residents of Barangay 3 abandoned their homes for a week and sought shelter in evacuation sites due to clashes between troops and the NPA that began on Oct. 6, government data show.
According to the military, Acosta was sent to Negros to help fix the NPA’s flagging support on the island.
AFP spokesperson Aguilar told reporters he was “100 percent sure that Acosta was using his God-given talents to exploit socioeconomic issues against the government.”
“Acosta could have been an asset to the government if he [had] truly worked for the advancement of the peasants’ welfare. He crossed the line when he joined the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines). He embraced violence, armed struggle, to effect societal change,” Aguilar said.
NDFP leader, companion slain in Negros Occidental ‘clash’
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