MANILA (UPDATE) — The Commission on Human Rights said Friday its investigation into the killing of 89 activists and rights defenders had stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic and President Rodrigo Duterte.
The body’s inquiry had enjoyed the cooperation of the Philippine National Police when it was still headed by Ronald Dela Rosa, who retired from the police service in 2018, said CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento.
CHR investigators now have to get by without a copy of police reports “because at the moment we cannot rely on the PNP to cooperate with us.”
“Unfortunately, there is an order from the President himself not to give the Commission on Human Rights the data,” she told ANC.
CHR investigators also encountered “some difficulty” from lockdowns meant to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Armamento said.
“Their movements are limited. The investigations are stalled,” she said.
“We haven’t finished all of our investigations because there are gaps that we cannot determine. It has not progressed even to the prosecutor’s office… because we don’t have enough evidence.”
ABS-CBN News sought comment from Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque but he has yet to respond as of this posting.
CHR is probing 89 killings between 2017 and 2019, mostly of activists and rights defenders who worked closely with marginalized communities. Before they were killed, the fatalities were tagged as communists by security forces and had claimed they were under surveillance, Armamento said.
To complete its inquiry, the CHR is getting help from the National Bureau of Investigation, which is “more open to us,” said Armamento.
Earlier this week, human rights defender Zara Alvarez was shot dead just days after National Democratic Front peace consultant Randall Echanis was killed. Exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison and militant groups have blamed the government for the death of the activists.
"Blaming state forces as the people behind these murders is unfounded as investigation on the killings of Randall Enchanis and Zara Alvarez is now underway," Roque said Wednesday.
"We are a nation of laws; and violence has no place in any civilized society,” claimed Roque, a lawyer.