Militant women’s group Gabriela expressed grief with the families of casualties in the military operation by combined elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in Nasugbu, Batangas on November 28. In the said incident, fifteen persons were killed including young women.
The group said that they respect the desire of the families to not reveal the names of the victims for their security. They also denounced the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for revealing the name of Josephine Lapira, a student leader from University of the Philippines (UP) Manila and an officer of Gabriela Youth UP Manila that was done without the family’s expressed consent.
Hours after the said incident in Batangas, the AFP released an online photo, through ‘Legal Army Wives’ Facebook page showing Lapira’s body on the ground wrapped in bloody blankets. Gabriela said that the viral photo contradicted the AFP’s claim that Lapira was brought to a hospital for treatment.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the brutal manner of their deaths and the desecration of their remains based on first-hand information gathered by our group. All their belongings, even the clothes on their bodies, were taken away by the military and denied their families,” said Joms Salvador, Gabriela Secretary-General.
She added, “The haphazard handling of the crime scene investigation points to a whitewash, amid initial reports that also point to excessive use of force and overkill on the part of AFP and PNP operatives. It also shows the wanton lack of respect for human rights and International Humanitarian Law by the PNP and the AFP.”
Gabriela noted that such handling also casts doubt on the manner and conduct of the operation, “especially since the PNP and AFP are notorious in planting and concocting so-called evidence in order to file trumped-up charges against their numerous victims in their counterinsurgency operations.”
CHR urged to conduct probe
Gabriela called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to immediately conduct a thorough and independent probe on the incident to help the families in their quest for justice.
They said that the results of the investigation could be instrumental in filing cases of violations of human rights (HR) and international humanitarian law (IHL) against culpable PNP and AFP units.
Salvador insisted, “We hold President Duterte directly accountable in all these. Through his public shoot-to-kill orders against perceived enemies of the state, he directly provided police, military and paramilitary operations blanket authority to use naked armed attacks against all persons deemed as part of groups opposed to his rule.”
She added, “He [Duterte] has repeatedly assured state security forces that HR and IHL considerations no longer apply and civilians are included in the array of persons to be neutralized.”
The group also accused the Duterte government of allowing the PNP and AFP free rein to create scenarios of ‘terrorists’ or ‘destabilization’ plots to help justify Duterte’s wild claims and pronouncements.
“In exposing the fascist iron fist of the Duterte government, we encourage the women and the people as a whole to fearlessly expose and oppose dictatorial rule. We must unite and persevere, protest in the streets, and together defend democracy and our constitutional rights against fascism and tyranny,” Salvador ended.