MANILA - The Palace on Friday maintained that police operations in Negros Oriental that left 14 farmers dead were legitimate.
"Authorities were implementing search warrants that were duly issued by competent courts," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
He slammed rights groups for allegedly using the incident "to sow hate and spread fear towards our duly constituted authorities."
Panelo again defended the police, saying the incident was not a massacre.
"In fact, a policeman was wounded which goes to show that there were indeed some who used violent resistance when authorities were conducting the search," he said.
Panelo also said there is no reason to call for the resignation of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde.
"General Albayalde has even acted objectively by relieving administratively ranking officers from their posts just to pave the way for a thorough and impartial investigation free from any possible undue influence and to determine whether lapses were made during the conduct of these operations," he said.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has launched a probe into the incident, focusing on whether search warrants were served to the individuals before they allegedly fought arrest.
The casualties were suspected communist rebels, including partisans or urban fighters, linked to foiled assassination plots against state forces, police earlier said.