Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Monday, March 8, expressed disappointment on the military and police operations in Southern Luzon last Sunday, March 7, that resulted in the deaths of nine persons and the arrest of six other individuals.
Those killed during the operations were suspected to have links with the communist rebels in Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Cavite.
“I am quite disappointed kasi nga hindi nabawasan notwithstanding na sinabi na natin yan before the international body (because the number of deaths during law enforcement operations continue to rise even though I have raised the issue of killings before the United Nations),” Guevarra told journalists covering the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Last Feb. 24, Guevarra reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the DOJ-led review panel has taken action after finding irregularities over a number of illegal drugs operations where suspects were killed.
“I was really hoping that with that statement I made before the UN, our law enforcers would be more careful in their operations,” he said.
“But these things continue to happen,” he lamented.
Thus, Guevarra said, there “may be a need to sit down with PNP (Philippine National Police), with the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) and with other law enforcement to make sure na hindi na masyadong mangyayari itong ganito (this will not happen too often).
“It could be avoided. We could do something about it,” he stressed.
He said he will consider if the incident last Sunday can be investigated by the DOJ-led Administrative Order (AO) 35 Task Force, known as the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations to the Rights to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.
“If they will fall within the jurisdiction of the AO 35 task force, and we're actually meeting this month, ... we can address this growing number (of killings),” he said.
But Guevarra said he could not prejudge law enforcement agencies “if they had to do what they needed to do.”
“We don’t know the exact circumstances pertaining to each and every case that has happened. But nonetheless, pag may namamatay (if there are deaths) we have to do something about it,” he said.
At the same time, Guevarra could not attribute the killings last Sunday to the statement of President Duterte.
“The president has always been vocal about the fight against these communist terrorist groups,” he said.