MANILA — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday said it is already "moving in its investigation" on the killing of 2 farmer-activists in Albay caught spray-painting a bridge with an anti-administration slogan.
"These incidents have repercussions on the people's exercise of freedom of expression, and right to raise complaints and petition action from government without fear of punishment or reprisals... Dissent, after all, is part of a thriving democracy, which ought to be respected," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia told ABS-CBN News.
Police in Guinobatan, Albay gunned down farmers Jaymar Palero, 22, and Marlon Napire, 40, after they allegedly shot at cops who caught them vandalizing Banao bridge past midnight on July 26.
However, human rights group Karapatan claimed the 2 men were unarmed when they were killed, citing accounts of the victims' companions.
Karapatan also discovered on Wednesday that Palero sustained 3 gunshot wounds: 2 on the back, while another was found on his right hand. He also had a black eye on his right eye, and 3 of his toenails were removed "suggesting that he was tortured and made to suffer before he was shot dead."
CHR said emergency cash assistance was given for the autopsy of Palero's body.
"CHR is interested in ferreting out the truth after there are accounts that the 2 victims were claimed to be unarmed during the incident and that one of the victims, Jaymar, was said to have signs of torture. Emergency cash assistance has also been extended to facilitate the autopsy of the remains of Jaymar to probe into the allegations of torture," De Guia said.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has already ordered the Bicol region police chief to put the 2 involved cops under restrictive custody while waiting for the results of the investigation.
Relatives of the 2 activists are also seeking justice for their death, insisting they were unarmed and did not engage the police in a firefight.
The killing of 2 activists took place hours before President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his final SONA, where he promised to institutionalize free legal aid for police and military men facing "performance-related" charges.
The Makabayan bloc of the House of Representative last week filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the killing.