More senators air concern over ‘bloody Sunday’ deaths, arrests of ‘activists’

Published March 8, 2021, 4:35 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators reminded members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcers of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of people to due process following the fatal raids they conducted against activists on Sunday.

(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO)

“Police operations against any suspected groups or individuals must strictly adhere to due process,” Senator Grace Poe said in a statement on on Monday, March 8.

“The Constitution states that ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws’,” she added.

Poe said law enforcers were mandated to “ensure that these guarantees are observed and not just dismiss nonchalantly cries of possible human rights violations.” “Protecting the right to life should have the highest threshold in our quest for peace and order,” she pointed out.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan also took to task the PNP for the “very disturbing” deaths that resulted from their operations.

“As a person, I find the killings very disturbing. Every life is precious. Peace and order, not killings, ang mandato ng mga pulis (are the mandates of police),” he said in a separate statement.

“Condemnation and outrage would be an understatement over the fate that befell the victims. Have we become a nation of butchers of our fellow Filipinos? Is there no more respect and value for life, rights, and due process?” he lamented.

He further said: “Ang dami ng namamatay sa COVID, sa mga bagyo, sa kung anu-anong sakuna. Huwag nang maging dahilan ang pulis sa pagkamatay pa ng kababayan natin (Many have already died because of COVID-19, typhoons and other disasters. Police should not add to the reasons for the deaths of our countrymen).” Pangilinan said that such “suspicious” outcomes from police operations will be prevented if the PNP uses the P289-million body-worn cameras it purchased in 2019. He asked the PNP to explain the delay in the use of body cameras in their operations.

“Why are these cameras not being used? It should not be too complicated to use one. Is there a deliberate delay in utilizing these cameras?” he said. “Without the body cameras, the ‘nanlaban’ excuse of the police for killing their captives would always be under a cloud of suspicion.” Former PNP chief and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that while he finds it premature to make conclusions about the recent raids, “It goes without saying that the only legal justification to kill an adversary is in defense of oneself or another person.” Lacson also maintained that law enforcers should come up with clear guidelines to properly enforce orders in addressing communist insurgency.

“When the Commander-in-Chief barks out an order, the commanders of the troops must dish out clear guidelines on how to carry out such anti-insurgency operations to make sure that they target only the armed combatants,” he said.

Nine people were killed while six were arrested after the police and military conducted a series of raids in the offices and houses of leaders and members of groups being linked to communist rebels in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal on Sunday, March 7.

Human rights groups have condemned the killings, which authorities explained were a result of armed encounters.

Police said the raids were based on 24 court-issued search warrants against the groups for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

On Friday, Duterte ordered the police and the military to immediately “kill” and “finish off” communist rebels should they fight it out with them. He also told them to “ignore human rights” and that he has no problem going to jail for it.