MANILA -- The Commission on Human Rights said Thursday the spate of killings in Negros Oriental should not lead to the declaration of martial law in the province, contrary to fears raised by some groups.
The heightened presence of law enforcers should be enough to thwart further violence, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia told ANC's Early Edition.
"We do not see the need for the President to exercise any assist prerogatives. We wouldn’t want a declaration of a state of emergency nor a declaration state of martial law in any part of the country because we feel this would normalize martial law in a sense," she said.
Martial law is in effect in Mindanao due to the threat from Islamic extremists.
The security situation in Negros Oriental is under control with more troops deployed to the province recently, said Brig. Gen. Bernardo Banac, spokesman of the Philippine National Police.
"There is no need to be alarmed or afraid. The public may go on with their daily activities. We assure the public we are doing our best to maintain peace and order," Banac said.
The CHR called on the PNP to cooperate in its investigation as some of its requests for reports were not granted by the provincial police.
"This is something that we would want for the PNP to settle particularly because this does not at this point pertain to the war on drugs. We do hope that the non-cooperation will not spill over other cases as well," Guia said.
Banac said the PNP would cooperate in the investigation of the CHR, adding authorities were "one with them in our desire to look into these killings and make the perpetrators answerable before the law."
"No one is above the law, if anyone of our colleagues are found to be guilty, they need to be investigated, charged also like civilians. The investigation will be impartial, we’ll look into all the angles, motives, and suspects whether they are members of the police force or not," Banac said.
On Wednesday, PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde ordered the relief of Negros Oriental provincial director Col. Raul Tacaca "to give way to an impartial probe on possible lapses by his administration."
Investigators are also looking into the possibility that the killings may have been triggered by the alleged torture of 4 policemen under the New People's Army.
"These could be insurgency-related, politically-motivated, or maybe land disputes."
In March, 14 people were killed in the province. An opposition lawmaker said the victims were farmers, while police said they conducted an operation against "hardcore criminals."
Last month, a human rights lawyer, a school principal, an education department employee, and a barangay chairman were among those killed.