MANILA — Human rights groups on Tuesday condemned the police for killing of 2 activists in Albay who allegedly "fought back" after being caught vandalizing a bridge with a supposedly anti-administration graffiti.
Karapatan identified the 2 activists as Jemar Palero, 22, member of Organisasyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Albay (OMA) and Marlon Naperi, 38, member of the Albay People’s Organization, an affiliate of Karapatan-Bicol.
Bayan Bicol spokesperson Vince Casilihan also confirmed that the 2 are farmers from Guinobatan.
Karapatan claimed the 2 men were unarmed when they were gunned down by cops patrolling the Banao bridge in Guinobatan town, Albay past midnight Monday.
The activists were only able to write "DUTERTE IBAGS" instead of "DUTERTE IBAGSAK" before they were killed by police.
A report from the Police Provincial Office of Albay claimed the 2 men fired shots at the roving police patrol, forcing cops to fight back.
Karapatan refuted the "nanlaban narrative."
"Allegations of the 'nanlaban' narrative that the victims fought back and they possessed guns are not only ludicrously false — they are unbelievable tall tales because both unarmed activists and they surely do not bear arms while doing graffiti," the Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay in a statement.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should investigate the incident because the police's claims were "highly suspicious."
"The claim is highly suspicious because, for one, activists who do graffiti work are not known to carry firearms and, for another, this 'nanlaban' claim is practically the same excuse the members of the Philippine National Police have been using to justify killing people in the government’s drug war," said HRW senior researcher Carlos Conde.
Conde added the Department of Justice should oversee the "thorough and impartial" investigation on the Albay killings.
Palabay said the latest killing is "another damning evidence of the bloody state of the nation under Duterte."
The killing took place before Duterte delivered his last State of the Nation Address, where he promised security forces of free legal services in case they figured in cases in line with their duty.