MANILA - The Philippine National Police on Tuesday branded as "legitimate" a string of operations that killed 14 farmers in Negros Oriental province over the weekend, rejecting accusations that it was a "massacre."
Authorities served arrest warrants late Friday on suspected "hardcore criminals" who fought back, police said.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago dubbed the incident a massacre, alleging that police entered one of the farmers' homes without a warrant.
"There was no massacre. All these law enforcement operations that was conducted by the Negros Orientel Police Office was legitimate and covered by search warrants," said PNP spokesperson Colonel Bernard Banac.
The suspects were "involved in past incidents targeting policemen and soldiers," he said. The operation was part of a nationwide campaign against loose firearms, he said.
Aside from the fatalities, 12 others were arrested and unharmed, said the official. "There was never an intention to eliminate all the suspects," he said.
A policeman was also wounded in the encounter, which "attests to the fact that there was really violent resistance coming from the suspects, which led the police to defend themselves," said Banac.
The Commission of Human Rights said Sunday that it was investigating the incident. The PNP is ready for any inquiry, said its spokesman.
"There's nothing wrong, there's nothing irregular with what we have done, we were just implementing the order of the court that issued a search warrant," Banac said.