The Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to assess if the deaths of three persons, including two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants, should be investigated by the inter-agency committee on extra-judicial killings (EJKs), Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Monday, May 31.
“The DOJ will conduct a preliminary assessment of the subject incidents,” said Guevarra who is the chairman of the Administrative Order (AO) 35 Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.
He said he has already given the directive to make the assessment whether the AO 35 committee should investigate the killings of the two peace consultants — former Roman Catholic priest Rustico Tan and Reynaldo Bocala — as well that of Bocala’s aide, Arguelles Epago.
“The AO 35 mechanism has been duly advised to start rolling,” he assured.
Several individuals and advocacy groups have condemned the killings of the three persons who were all gunned down last Friday night, May 28.
Among them, human rights group Karapatan had asked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct an independent investigation and had urged President Duterte “to put a stop to the killings and to abide by the NDFP-GRP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.”
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said Tan, 80, was sleeping on a hammock when he was shot dead in Purok Caimito, Barangay Upper Poblacion, Pilar, Camotes Islands in Cebu.
She noted that Tan, whom she said had faced trumped-up murder charges, served as a NDFP peace consultant in the 1980s but had retired and had engaged in community organic farming.
She added that Bocala, 75, and Epago, 60, were killed during a raid of a house in Providence Subdivision, Barangay Balabag, in Pavia, Iloilo during an operation conducted by joint elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which served four arrest warrants.
She said Bocala was the husband of Ma. Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala, who was among those designated as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council last May 13.