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CHR probes separate killings of 2 barangay officials in Cebu, Maguindanao

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday said it has launched investigations into the killing of two barangay chiefs in Asturias, Cebu and Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao del Sur recently.

“Upon cognisance of these attacks, CHR, through its offices in Regions X and XII, launched its independent motu proprio investigations,” it said in a statement.

The CHR also supported the warning of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairperson George Garcia against aspiring candidates resorting to violence as the 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections near.

“Although police authorities have yet to determine if these incidents were related or politically motivated, the Commission stresses that, regardless of reason, such acts of violence [undermine] social order and the rule of law,” it said.

“Amid the upcoming conduct of barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October 2023, CHR echoes Comelec Chairman George Garcia’s warning against aspiring candidates resorting to violence,” it added.

For the CHR, the killings affect the safety of communities as well as the results of the upcoming elections.

“CHR emphasizes that free, fair, and non-violent elections are essential components of democratic societies. Violence that may be related to politics threatens the credibility and legitimacy of electoral processes. The climate of fear and intimidation can likewise deter citizens from exercising their right to participation altogether,” it said.

The CHR also called on the government to take the necessary measures to speed up investigations and hold perpetrators accountable.

Earlier, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported two barangay chairpersons were killed following separate gun attacks in the provinces of Cebu and Maguindanao del Sur on March 14.

In Asturias, Cebu, barangay chief Mario Tundag and his wife in Asturias, Cebu were killed in a gun attack.  In Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, barangay chairperson Hadji Basit Zangkala was also gunned down.

The PNP said it already identified some persons of interest and are looking into personal grudge as the possible motive in the killing of Tundag and his wife.

Meanwhile, there were still no persons of interest in the killing of Zangkala.

According to the PNP, the two cases are not yet considered election-related incidents because the poll period has not started yet. —Joviland Rita/ VAL, GMA Integrated News