The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said President Rodrigo Duterte’s order “to shoot and kill right away” may have encouraged the massacre and mass arrest of activists in Southern Tagalog on Sunday, March 7.
CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said the national human rights institution expresses concern on Duterte’s statement on Friday, 5 March, to not only kill communists but to “ignore human rights.”
De Guia said: “Words matter and such words can embolden some to act with abuse and impunity.”
The mass killing and arrests of prominent activists and unionists in Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Batangas in an operation called Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants was launched two days after Duterte ordered the police and military at a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“If there’s an encounter and you see them armed, kill! Kill them! Don’t mind human rights! I will be the one to go to prison, I don’t have qualms,” the President said.
Reacting to the brutal deaths of nine activists across three provinces, however, de Guia said, “CHR finds the number of deaths most concerning in light of the pattern of prevalent red-tagging and escalating attacks against activists,” de Guia said.
De Guia said the government is primarily obligated to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of everyone.
“Where the right to life is concerned, the government has the utmost obligation to fulfil its obligation—no matter which side of the political spectrum one belongs,” the lawyer added.
The CHR called on the government to urgently investigate, “given the brutal nature of the deaths and allegations of irregularities in the said law enforcement operations. “
De Guia also reminded the government to honor its domestic and international commitment to uphold, respect and protect human rights.
“We have yet to see concrete response to our repeated plea for tangible reduction of violence on the ground,” she said.
De Guia added that its Region IV-A (CALABARZON) office CHR is pursuing independent probes into the bloody operations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)