Rights group says Philippine forces shot dead 9 indigenous community leaders

Bangkok, Dec 31 (efe-epa).- Philippines security forces have killed nine suspected members of a leftist guerrilla group on Panay Island, sparking an allegation that the deceased were civilians and indigenous community leaders.

Another 17 people were arrested during a joint police and military operation on Wednesday.

According to Karapatan, a network of human rights organizations, the security forces claim that the slain people were suspected members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

The police claimed that they carried firearms and fought with security forces to resist arrest.

However, Karapatan on Thursday denied the claim and asked the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the deaths of the leaders of the Tumandok indigenous group.

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay, in a statement, said the joint operation was to instill fear among the indigenous people who oppose projects that might force them to abandon their ancestral lands.

She accused the police and the army of claiming self-defense to justify the deaths.

“The narratives from their relatives and their communities themselves debunk all the lies to prove one thing: this is a gruesome, cold-blooded rampage of killings,” she said.

The operation was conducted on Wednesday morning when members of the police and army tried to serve 28 search warrants against alleged NPA members for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The police and the military allege that they acted in self-defense during a crossfire, but Karapatan claimed that they executed at least three of the leaders in cold blood, two of them in their sleep.

“There is nothing to justify these these killings. These are attacks on indigenous communities in the country in general — and for what, in the name of development?”

The United Nations Human Rights Council published a report on the Philippines in June, denouncing a campaign of “terror and impunity” under President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership.

At least 248 activists have been killed in an alleged persecution campaign against social leaders and left groups by the Duterte government.

Another report published by nonprofit Global Witness in July named the Philippines as the second-most dangerous country for land rights and environmental activists. EFE-EPA


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