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CHR: Police’s ‘self-defense’ claims amid killings must be probed by court, not merely asserted

The police's claims that suspects who died during operations were killed in “self-defense” must be probed by courts and not merely asserted by law enforcers, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Wednesday.

Commissioner Gwen Pimentel Gana said the drug war killings being probed by the CHR have “often been marked by brazen and brutal deaths.”

“Majority of the killings that CHR has analyzed involve victims who were allegedly killed because they fought back and initiated aggression during police operations—the ‘nanlaban’ narrative—mostly belonging to the civilian population,” she said in a statement.

“It must be stressed that, even in the past, CHR clarified that invoking self-defense or 'nanlaban' (fought back) as a justifying circumstance should be determined by a competent court and cannot be merely asserted without trial of facts,” she added.

Gana pointed out that the Supreme Court ruled in Ocampo v. People of the Philippines that “the location of a deceased aggressor's gunshot wounds may suggest an intent to kill and not merely to defend oneself.”

She also said records of the victims’ injuries reflect the “brutality” of the drug war and indicate “possible abuse of strength and intent to kill by the perpetrators.”

The CHR statement came on the heels of police’s assertion that the killing of nine activists in a bloody operation in Calabarzon on Sunday was “self-preservation.” 

"The nine who died fought it out with the police. And there is nothing the police could do but to respond under the principle of self-preservation," the Philippine National Police claimed. 

The CHR said such statements by the police are difficult to verify due to restrictions on access to police records.

“This restriction makes it difficult to ascertain the veracity of police claims, as well as the extent of effort extended in investigating deaths said to be not related to law enforcement operations,” Gana said.

The Calabarzon killings, like the drug war deaths, have been linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated shoot-to-kill orders to police.  — BM, GMA News