MANILA -- The Commission on Human Rights on Sunday said it was investigating the recent death of 14 farmers in police operations in Negros Oriental.
Local police said officers conducted search and arrest warrant operations on Friday night against "hardcore criminals", who allegedly fired back. Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago, however, alleged that authorities entered one of the farmers' home Friday night without any search warrant.
Claims of resisting arrest "need to be tried before courts to ensure that there are no lapses and ascertain if the circumstances really warrant the offense from the police," noted CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia.
"At this point, our interest is finding out the truth... The regional sub-office of CHR-Region VII has already been instructed to investigate this case," she said in a statement.
The Negros Oriental police earlier said 8 were killed in Canlaon City, 4 in Manjuyod town, and 2 in Sta. Catalina town, while 12 others were arrested. An officer was wounded in the operations, police said.
PROGRESSIVES DECRY SLAY
Among the fatalities were Edgardo Avelino, the leader of a local peasant organization, and his brother Ismael, said Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr.
They were unarmed, he claimed, citing information from farmers groups and human rights groups.
"Hindi katanggap-tanggap ang ganitong malawakang paglabag sa karapatang pantao... Karumaldumal na krimen ang nangyari. Ang taktikang tokhang sa drug war ay ginagamit na rin laban sa mga magsasaka," Reyes said in a statement.
(This widespread violation of human rights is unacceptable. What happened was a grisly crime. The tokhang tactic in the drug war is now being used against farmers, too.)
Rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, called for a recall of troops in the area and an end to the implementation of the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO).
"The repressive measures have complicitly allowed the killings of farmers in the region, communities which are already experiencing widespread poverty and lack of government support," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
"A bloodbath is happening in Negros, victimizing farmers and mercilessly perpetrated by a government with no regard for human rights and due process," she added.
Under the Duterte administration, 180 farmers have been killed, including 40 who were from Negros island, according to the Kabataan Party-list.
In October 2018, 9 sugarcane farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental were eating dinner when they were shot dead by 5 to 6 gunmen.