The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed willingness to join the inter-agency committee on extra-judicial killings in investigating the March 7 deaths of unarmed activists during joint police and military operations in the Calabarzon region.
Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra bared this on Saturday after special investigating teams have been formed by the DoJ-led Administrative Order (AO) 35 Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torturee and Other Grave Violations of the Right of Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.
“Kami mismo ang nag-take ng initiative na kausapin ang CHR, Commission on Human Rights natin, kasi isa yan sa mga pinangako rin sa United Nations na we will work more closely from here on with our own CHR,” Guevarra said during a radio interview over DZBB.
“Kaya kahapon lamang nakipag-kontak na ako sa representante ng CHR at sinabi ko sa kanila na nag-create na kami ng special investigating teams dito under the AO 35 committee at hinihiling ko ang kanilang cooperation para sa case build-up,” he added.
The secretary said the CHR expressed its readiness to help in the committee in the investigation.
Last March 7, the police and military conducted joint operations in serving search warrants at the offices and homes of persons with suspected links to communist groups in Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Batangas.
However, the operations resulted in the deaths of nine persons who were allegedly unarmed.
Guevarra explained the AO 34 committee decided to investigate the killings after an assessment of the incident.
“Yung mga biktima in our preliminary assessment based doon sa mga reports na natanggap namin were members of environmental groups; isang labor group, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan; a peasant group, Pamalakaya, which is a fishermen’s group,” he said.
“So in other words, mga advocacy groups ito at ang kabilang party na sinasabi na nagper-petrate ng kanilang violent deaths ay state forces, more particularly, the PNP supported by the AFP,” he added.
Since the PNP-AFP operations were legitimate and the search warrants valid, Guevarra said that “bibigyan natin sila ng benefit of the doubt.”
The secretary noted that such operations undergo planning before being carried out.
Guevarra said the investigating teams will also look into allegations made by the PNP and AFP that those who died are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) which he described as one of the “violent groups.”