Allow us to probe death of 9 activists first – Palace

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MALACANANG urged critics to allow the government to wrap up its probe over the death of nine activists in Calabarzon over the weekend for them to be able to determine who should be punished.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also appealed to critics of the Duterte administration to allow due process to take its course, adding that the government has already launched the probe to verify reports that activists were armed during simultaneous operations where the police and military were supposed to serve arrest warrants.

“In terms of the right to live, the state is obligated to punish those who violate human rights… We need to know the truth. Let’s give the Department of Justice some time to carry out a fair investigation,” Roque said.

The Office of the United Nations for Human Rights said it was appalled over the “apparently arbitrary killing” of activists in Southern Luzon, saying it indicated an “escalation in violence, intimidation, harassment and ‘Red-tagging’ of human rights defenders.”

The European Union’s delegation also noted that “reports on the use of excessive force against unarmed individuals and alleged irregularities in the law enforcement operations have raised concerns.”

“I ask the European Union, please give the Philippines a chance to discharge its obligation to investigate, punish, and prosecute those who may have breached our domestic laws,” Roque said.

“We are undertaking and discharging the state obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish,” he added.

Impunity has no place under the Duterte administration, Roque insisted.

“Anyone who violated the law would be held accountable and punished under our laws,” he said.

On March 7, police conducted operations in the Calabarzon region, resulting in the death of nine activists. The incident, dubbed as “Bloody Sunday” by human rights groups, happened days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to kill armed rebels during operations, the latest in the violent rhetoric used by the Philippine leader in his administration’s crackdown on activists.

The justice department’s task force on extrajudicial killings has vowed to probe the death of the nine activists.

The task force includes the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police.

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