By Aaron Recuenco
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Saturday that the 14 persons, who were killed in simultaneous anti-crime operations over the weekend in Negros Oriental, tried to shoot it out with local policemen amid claims that those slain were farmers massacred by security forces for having links with Communist rebels.
PNP spokesman P/Col. Bernard Banac said the operations in Canlaon City and the towns of Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina started as an implementation of search warrant issued by local courts for possible possession of firearms and explosive materials.
Eight people were killed in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod and two in Sta. Catalina town, the local police said.
“We are sure that they really tried to shoot it out because our policemen will not use force if there is no threat to their lives,” said Banac.
The operations were carried out during the 50th founding anniversary of the New People’s Army (NPA). Those who were subjected to the search warrants were reportedly members of the Communist insurgent group.
At least 15 supporters of the NPA, on the other hand, were reportedly arrested.
Militant groups immediately condemned the operations, saying what happened was not police operations but a massacre of farmers in Negros Oriental.
But Banac stood by the report of the local police forces, saying the operations went through the process of validation of intelligence report and other processes in carrying out raids.
“It is the duty of the PNP to enforce the law and maintain peace and order for public safety. And these were done by following the rules of engagement, respect on human rights and presumption of regularity,” said Banac.
“The police were running after these personalities because of the violations of the law, and based on the information obtained they were keeping contrabands, guns and bullets. The PNP just implemented the search warrant and at the course of the implementation, there were gun battles,” he added.
Banac said they welcome any move by some groups to challenge the veracity of the report in connection with the conduct of operations in Negros Oriental.
“All the allegations raised by some groups will be answered by the PNP at the proper time and at the proper venue,” said Banac.