The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it decided to conduct its own probe on the deaths of two activists in Guinobatan, Albay hours before President Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 26.
Jaymar Palero, 22, and Marlon Napire, 40, were shot to death after reportedly engaging in an alleged shootout with members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
PNP’s report stated that Palero and Napire were caught spray painting slogans against the President along the Banao Bridge in Guinobatan.
The same police report also stated that the two activists were armed and started firing when about to be accosted for vandalism. It was reported that a .45 caliber pistol and a .38 caliber revolver were recovered from them.
But the CHR, through Spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia said “there were other reports regarding the incident” that prompted the commission to conduct its own probe.
"CHR is interested in ferreting out the truth after there are accounts that the two victims were claimed to be unarmed during the incident and that one of the victims, Palero, was said to have signs of torture," De Guia said.
She said the CHR in Region V has already communicated with Guinobatan’s chief of police who has been relieved of his post and has touched base with the victims' families as emergency cash assistance was provided for the autopsy of the remains of Palero to confirm allegations of torture.
De Guia also said: "Continuous attacks and deaths of activists remain to be a cause of concern for CHR. These incidents have repercussions on the people's exercise of freedom of expression, and right to raise complaints and to petition action from government without fear of punishment or reprisals. Arbitrary killing is also a clear assault to a person's right to life."
The CHR lauded the swift action of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in authorizing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the activists' deaths.