Philippine security forces accused of killing 9 activists

MANILA – A left-wing human rights organization accused Philippine security forces of killing nine activists on Sunday in coordinated raids in four provinces.

Cristina Palabay, leader of the rights group Karapatan, said the raids were carried out at the homes and offices of activists. Two of the victims, a couple, died while their 10-year-old son was hiding under a bed, he said.

A government spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment, but a security official confirmed that nine people had been killed in raids carried out jointly by the army and the Philippine National Police. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

Philippine outlet GMA News said a police spokesman, Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, had confirmed the deaths.

Ms. Palabay said the killings occurred in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal provinces, all in the southern part of Luzon Island, near Manila. He said the activists who were killed had worked for a variety of organizations, including a group that works on behalf of Filipino fishermen and another that campaigned for the rights of the urban poor.

“Nothing could be more appropriate than calling this day a ‘Bloody Sunday,'” Palabay said in a statement. He said the killings were part of a “murderous campaign of state terror” by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to quell legitimate dissent, and urged the country’s independent Human Rights Commission to investigate the raids.

Three activists were arrested in the raids, including a paralegal who worked for Karapatan, Palabay said.

Duterte and other prominent Philippine officials, including military and police commanders, have accused Karapatan and other left-wing groups of having ties to a long-standing communist insurgency in the country. Karapatan and similar groups have denied involvement in violence.

Phil RobertsonHuman Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia said his organization was “seriously concerned” by the reports of the raids, which he said were “clearly” part of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign against communist rebels.

“The fundamental problem is that this campaign no longer distinguishes between armed rebels and non-combatant activists, labor leaders and rights defenders,” Robertson said in a statement.

On Friday, two days before the raids, Duterte urged Philippine security forces to kill Communists in battle. “I have told the military and the police that if they come across an armed encounter with the communist rebels, kill them, make sure you actually kill them and eliminate them if they are alive,” he said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines issued a statement urging its armed wing, the New People’s Army, which has been waging an insurgency since 1969, to “punish the perpetrators and masterminds” behind the reported raids.

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