MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday asked for proof from Vice President Leni Robredo, over her criticism of what she dubbed as President Rodrigo Duterte's "murderous regime" following police raids that left dead 9 activists.
Robredo on Monday said the death of the 9 community organizers in their homes in the Calabarzon region was a "massacre," just 2 days after Duterte ordered troops to kill rebels and "ignore human rights. Filipinos "deserve better than this murderous regime," she said.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque noted police had claimed there was a threat to their lives in the raid against the activists, and that an investigation is underway.
"Kung personal na nakita ni Vice President iyong nangyari, magbigay siya ng ebidensya kasi ang pananalita niya, parang nakita ng dalawa niyang mata iyong nangyari sa mga patayan na 'yon," he said in a press briefing.
(If the Vice President personally saw what happened, she should give evidence because she's talking as if she saw that killing with her own 2 eyes.)
"'Pag hindi siya nagbigay ng ebidensya, kasalanan din po iyan, baka siya ang makasuhan. Kung talagang siya ay eye witness, sige po, ibigay niya ang ebidensya. Pero kung hindi niya nakita ang pangyayari, gaya ng Presidente at gaya ng sambayanang Pilipino, maghintay ng resulta ng imbestigasyon," added Roque.
(If she doesn't give evidence, that's also a sin, and she can face charges. If she is an eye witness, go, give evidence. But if she didn't see what happened, like the President and the Filipino public, wait for the result of the investigation.)
The National Bureau of Investigation will look into police implementation of search warrants, said Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay.
"Ang amin lang napansin recently, 'pag may search warrants... minsan talaga nagkakaroon ng hindi magandang pangyayari. Mayroong mga naaaresto o kaya kamukha nitong nangyari noong Linggo, mayroong may mga nasawi, napatay," he said in the same briefing.
(We just noticed that recently, when there are search warrants, sometimes bad incidents happen. There are arrests, or like what happened on Sunday, there are people who died, were killed.)
Roque said no probe is "conducted only for public opinion."
"Huwag po kayong mag-alala dahil mayroon po tayong sinumpaan na katungkulan, wala pong PR na investigation lamang," he said.
(Don't worry because we have a sworn duty, there will be no investigation just for public relations.)
The Commission on Human Rights said that while it "condemns the use of arms and violence to overthrow a government, human rights must be respected at all times" and "crimes must be punished under the guidance of the rule of law and due process."
"Words matter and such words can embolden some to act with abuse and impunity," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said of Duterte's remarks.
She reminded the government that "with its primary obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of everyone," it "cannot be the first one to violate them."
Among those killed was a coordinator of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, a left-wing group that has called for an end to "red-tagging," the practice of labelling opponents, communists or terrorists to justify targeting them, which dates back to the rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, an influential church group, in a statement denounced the use of what it called unnecessary force and violence during "Bloody Sunday."
Human Rights Watch said the government's counter-insurgency campaign no longer makes a distinction between armed rebels and non-combatant activists, labor leaders, and rights defenders.
On Sunday, Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade, head of an anti-rebel task force, told Reuters the raids were "legitimate law enforcement operations," and authorities had search warrants for firearms and explosives.
Activists said the raids were reminiscent of police operations in which thousands of people have been killed as part of Duterte's signature war on drugs, in which police said all of the victims were armed and had resisted arrest.
Raising concern over the latest incident "in light of the pattern of prevalent red-tagging and escalating attacks against activities, De Guia, the CHR spokesperson, said that "where the right to life is concerned, the government has the utmost obligation to fulfill its obligation- no matter which side of the political spectrum one belongs."
"It is the supreme duty of the State to protect the right to life," she said.
Since coming to power in 2016, Duterte has seen his efforts to forge peace with communist rebels derailed repeatedly, prompting frequent outbursts and threats to wipe them out.
— With a report from Reuters