The government will investigate the killing of nine activists during separate police operations over the weekend, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday.
At a press briefing, Roque said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra will lead the investigation.
“Ang iimbestigahan po, iyong necessity and proportionality kung bakit sila napatay,” Roque, a lawyer, said.
“Kung walang necessity and proportionality, that would be murder.”
Guevarra confirmed the upcoming investigation by the AO 35 task force on extrajudicial killings.
“I have to take a look at these incidents. But basically dahil maraming agencies ang maiinvolve diyan, we would rather discuss it muna in the inter-agency task force on EJKs and torture and other grave violations of human rights,” he told reporters.
Various groups have condemned the killing, noting that it happened two days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government forces to kill suspected rebels without regard for human rights.
Roque, however, said the police operations over the weekend should not be linked to Duterte's call, saying killing armed rebels is provided for under International Humanitarian law.
“Tama iyong order ng President to kill communists kasi kung ang kalaban ay may armas, alangan namang mag antay ka lang na ikaw ay mabaril,” he said.
Guevarra declined to speculate whether the killings were connected to Duterte’s latest tirades against the rebels.
“Let’s see what really are the facts kasi mahirap magsabi na it’s because of what the President said. We don’t really know the facts as yet so the best thing to do really is to conduct a fact-finding investigation of what happened so that’s only the time we can probably make a conclusion,” he said.
The police said the operations were covered by court-issued search warrants, and that those killed resisted arrest.
Groups like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the victims were "legal activists" and said the killings were related to Duterte's order against communist rebels.
According to the police, six of the fatalities were reported in Rizal, two in Batangas, and one in Cavite.
Apart from those killed, six were arrested in the operations, according to the police.
Some senators have urged the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the killing of the nine activists. —KBK, GMA News