THE PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) on Monday said the recent police operations in various parts of Negros Oriental, where 14 suspected communist supporters were killed, were legitimate and cannot be considered a massacre.
“Itong mga operations na ito (These operations) are all covered by search warrants. They have 36 search warrants in different parts of Negros Oriental. Hindi po ito nangyari sa iisang lugar. Hindi totoo na ito ay masaker (This did not happen in one place. It is not true that this was a massacre),” said PNP chief Gen. Oscar D. Albayalde in a press briefing at Camp Crame on Monday.
Fourteen people were killed and 12 others were arrested in joint military and police operations in two towns and one city in Negros Oriental on Saturday.
Police reports said the 14 arrested were suspected to be members and supporters of the New People’s Army, the armed units of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Eight of the fatalities were from Canlaon City, four from Manjuyod, and two from Santa Catalina.
Mr. Albayalde claimed that those killed fought back.
“Meron pong hindi nanlaban at naaresto. Itong mga 14 ito yung mga sinasabi nilang nanlaban. Hindi naman siguro magpapaputok yung ating mga pulis kung hindi naman talaga nanlaban itong mga taong ito (There were some who did not fight back. Police said that these 14 fought back. I don’t think our policemen will fire shots if these suspects did not fight back),” he said.
On the other hand, Kabataan Party-list claimed that those 14 killed were farmers.
“Fourteen farmers killed, 12 arrested in a day in Negros Oriental from joint military and police operations targeting members of peasant and plantation workers’ groups in the guise of ‘anti-criminality.’ This horrendous massacre brings the death toll of farmers killed under the Duterte administration to 197,” said Rep. Sarah I. Elago in a statement on Sunday.
Mr. Albayalde countered that based on police intelligence, there was no indication that the suspects were farmers.
Rather, he added, they had previous participation in an alleged ambush of police officers and a master sergeant from the Philippine Army.
For his part, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, a former police chief, asked the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of National Defense to provide assistance to government forces amid the controversy.
“Now, more than anytime, they should be assisted by their superior officers until and unless it is proven that they violated the established rules of engagement and the existing laws of the land,” the senator said in a statement on Monday.
He added, “When farmers possess rifle grenades, fragmentation grenades, handguns, shotguns, ammunition, phones and subversive documents, it says a lot about their tactics in their insurgency campaign aimed at a protracted guerilla warfare aimed at overthrowing the duly constituted authority.” — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras and Charmaine A. Tadalan