MANILA - The inter-agency task force on extrajudicial killings will make a "preliminary assessment" on the killings of 2 National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants in the Visayas, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday.
The AO 35 Task Force will determine whether the cases fall under its jurisdiction, he said. The body is an inter-agency panel intended to probe extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations involving activists and rights defenders.
Former priest Rustico Tan was shot dead by unidentified assailants while sleeping on a hammock in Pilar town in Camotes Islands on Friday night.
In Pavia town, Iloilo, Reynaldo Bocala and his companion, Willy Epago, were killed in a police raid in the same night.
Formed in 2012, the AO 35 Task Force is limited to prosecuting politically-motivated killings.
It is headed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its members include the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The Philippine government showcased its AO 35 task force before the United Nations Human Rights Council last year which, according to the justice secretary, puts prosecutors at the top of the investigation of cases to ensure “objectivity” especially in cases where law enforcers are themselves accused of abuses.
But rights groups have lamented AO 35 task force’s low conviction rate with only 13 convictions since it was created in 2012. In contrast, 127 alleged perpetrators have been cleared out of 385 cases as of December 2019.
- With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News