MANILA (UPDATE) - A lawmaker on Monday called on the government to investigate the simultaneous crackdowns of activists in Calabarzon that left 9 dead and several others arrested.
"There should be an investigation of what has happened. Similar to the drug campaign, there's been this unprecedented killing of previously supposed drug users or pushers. Now, the guns are leveled on the heads of activists and this was very evident to what happened last Sunday in the Southern Tagalog region," Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite told ANC.
The lawmaker alleged the police and military took a page from “Oplan Tokhang” operations, the government’s knock-and-plead crackdown on drug suspects.
"They claim that they will now be using this same, very inhuman way of going after activists by simply claiming they are left-leaning or front organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF," he said.
Gaite said this came after President Rodrigo Duterte's speech on Friday in Cagayan de Oro City where he ordered state forces to kill all communist rebels.
"These enabling statements of Duterte is pushing the military and police to go on a killing streak, a rampage, a massacre, if you can say that. We believed this is an affront to our basic human rights. Our right to life is rampantly violated," he said.
One of those killed on Sunday was identified as Manny Asuncion, a Bagong Alyansang Makabayan coordinator in Cavite.
"Manny Asuncion definitely is not an armed rebel. He is an activist. He has pursued this through peaceful means of addressing the concerns," Gaite said.
"Their accusations that he's nanlaban, I think this is the old script, the old playbook that [they are] using similar to Tokhang style na nanlaban. Definitely, all these accusations are untrue."
Authorities earlier said 6 were killed in Rizal province, 2 in Batangas and 1 in Cavite during simultaneous raids on Sunday. Police were unavailable for comment to ANC.
DISSENT NARROWING EACH DAY
In a statement Monday, former Vice President Jejomar Binay slammed the killings as "wanton disregard for the rule of law and due process."
"Ngayon, aktibista ang hinuhuli at pinapatay. Maaaring bukas, ikaw na ang target. Hihintayin pa ba natin mangyari yon?" he said.
(Now, activists are being arrested and killed. Tomorrow, you might be the target. Should we wait for that to happen?)
Binay described the "nanlaban" narrative, in which supposedly armed suspects are killed after resisting arrest with state forces, as "lumang tugtugin" or rehash.
He expressed concern that the room for legitimate dissent was "narrowing with each passing day" and " being equated to armed insurgency."
"It is imperative that our rights and freedoms remain protected, otherwise we might see the day when any criticism of government would be considered as a criminal act," Binay added.
Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, head of an anti-rebel task force, told Reuters the raids were "legitimate law enforcement operations," and authorities acted on the basis of search warrants for possession of firearms and explosives.
"As usual, these groups are so quick in assuming that the subjects were activists and that they were killed. If (the) motive was to kill them they should all be dead but there were those who did not resist arrest so they were collared," Parlade told Reuters in a phone message. - With a report from Reuters