MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines should investigate its men in connection with the killings on Negros islands that happened between October 2018 and July 2019, a Senate committee report said.
The Senate committees on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and Justice and Human Rights recommended that the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service “investigate complaints and gather evidence for possible filing of administrative and criminal liabilities against police personnel and units involved in Oplan Sauron who may have committed abuses or violations of laws and/or the Revised Operational Procedures.”
They also proposed that the military look into its personnel involved in Oplan Sauron for “possible human rights abuses and/or violations.”
SEMPO and Oplan Sauron
The report dated January 21 read: “To say that the period between October 2018 and July 2019 was bloody is a gross understatement."
Among those killed were nine sugarcane farmers on October 2018 and rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos who was shot dead a month later.
Following this, President Rodrigo Duterte on Nov. 22, 2018, issued Memorandum Order 32, which reinforces the guidelines for the AFP and PNP in “implementation of measures to suppress and prevent lawless violence.”
A fact-finding mission composed of farmers’ and rights groups earlier claimed that “state terrorism is very much alive in Negros Island courtesy of declaration of MO31.”
A month later, the Simultaneous Enhanced Managing of Police Operations, or SEMPO, which included PNP’s Regional Mobile Safety Battalion and three battalions of the Philippine Army.
“The dreadful episodes of carnage and violence however, continued to hound the terrorized Negros Islands,” the report read.
After the launch of SEMPO, six persons, including habal-habal drivers Reneboy Fat, Demetrio Fat, Jaime Revilla, Dondon Isugan, Jun Cubul and Constancio Languita, were killed in police operations.
Those killed and the 31 arrested were members of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide.
On March 30, 2019, Oplan Sauron, the second version of SEMPO, was launched.
“On the day of Oplan Sauron’s launching, 14 farmers were killed,” the report noted.
The killings also continued. Among those slain were four policemen, lawyer for political prisoners, a high school principal and a barangay captain.
The committees said that while the implementation of Oplan Sauron eased security problems in the area, “the wave of slayings has not been eliminated completely.”
The Senate panels recommended that the police and military report to Duterte the effectiveness of Oplan Sauron “in the objective to suppress and end lawless violence in the Negros Island.”
They also recommended the investigation of Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista, or Kagubak, that supposedly has a “hit list” of “alleged [New People’s Army] sympathizers” so appropriate charges may be filed against them.
Five of the 15, including rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad, tagged on the hit list have been killed.
Other recommendations of the panels include:
- Deploy more AFP and PNP forces to secure Negros Oriental and Occidental and the neighboring province
- Provide necessary budget for the Commission on Human Rights hiring and deployment of more of its investigating officers in Negros Islands for continuing probe, and in other regions in the country
- Enhance cooperation between CHR and police not only conduct of probe in Negros Islands but all cases of human rights violations across the country
- Intensify anti-insurgency operations in areas in Negros Islands where there is reported rise of rebels, “but with due regard to the protection of human rights, and observance of the established principles of due process of law”
- Provide socio-economic and psyco-social aid to the families of those killed
- Pursue amendments to Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act, by considering the killings as acts of terrorism, with the end goal of creating public emergency
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