At least nine activists were killed in separate police raids in Southern Luzon on Sunday, multiple reports said, prompting human rights organizations to demand that the Philippine government investigate the incidents.
Among those killed in what rights watchdog Karapatan called a "Bloody Sunday" a Bagong Alyansang Makabayan coordinator, a couple leading fisherfolks, and two urban poor group members. At least four activists were arrested, reports said.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the operations that "appear to be part of a coordinated plan by the authorities to raid, arrest, and even kill activists in their homes and offices," its Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement.
"These incidents are clearly part of the government’s increasingly brutal counter-insurgency campaign aimed at eliminating the 52-year-old Communist insurgency," he said.
The raids happened two days after President Rodrigo Duterte told police and military on March 5 to "kill communists right away" and "ignore human rights", Robertson said.
"The Philippine government should act now to investigate the use of the lethal force in these raids, stop the mayhem and killings that has gone hand in hand with the practice of red-tagging, and respect the rights of Filipinos to exercise their civil and political right, and dissent," he said.
Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade told Reuters that the raids were "legitimate law enforcement operations" wherein "authorities acted on the basis of search warrants for possession of firearms and explosives."
Former Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño on Twitter shared copies of two search warrants issued by a Manila Court which he described as "copy paste".
"As usual these groups are so quick in assuming that the subjects were activists and that they were killed. If (the) motive was to kill them they should all be dead but there were those who did not resist arrest so they were collared," said Parlade, co-spokesman of government's anti-rebel task force, NTF-ELCAC.
In their statement, Karapatan said Parlade has now "exceeded the brutality of fascist butcher Jovito Palparan in letting loose a murderous rampage without any attempt to disguise it." The late general Palparan was accused of a raft of human rights violations when he was an army general in the mid-2000s.
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