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Philippines human rights watchdog launches probe as nine killed in anti-communist raids Duterte govt says were ‘legal’

Philippines human rights watchdog launches probe as nine killed in anti-communist raids Duterte govt says were ‘legal’
The Philippines human rights watchdog has launched a probe after nine unarmed people died during a police operation. The deaths followed the president’s order to troops to “kill” rebels, but the govt insists the move was legal.

“The president’s ‘kill, kill, kill’ order is legal because it was directed at armed rebels,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a briefing on Monday, as he responded to a barrage of criticism levied at leader Rodrigo Duterte.

The Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the president, nonetheless confirmed there would be an official investigation into the killings.

The country’s National Police chief, Debold Sinas, had confirmed earlier that the operation took place, with police and military personnel deployed to detain suspects who had been accused of being in “illegal possession of firearms.”

Nine people were killed by security forces and 15 individuals were arrested after the raids, according to Sinas. Bayan Muna, a left-wing political group in the Philippines, claimed that all of those targeted were unarmed political activists.

The human rights watchdog in the country sent a team to the area to fully investigate the killings and detention, calling on the government to cooperate and conduct an internal investigation.

“There should be a differentiation between those who take up arms and those who merely exercise their constitutional right to form and join associations,” Commission on Human Rights spokeswoman Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.

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The operations took place several days after Duterte, who is seen by critics as an authoritarian leader, ordered the police and military to “kill” and “finish off” communist rebels across the country “if they find themselves in an armed encounter.”

Duterte sparked concerns among communist activists in the country when he said “Forget about human rights,” stating that he is “willing to go to jail” to counter the political ideology and stamp it out across the country. 

The Philippines president also took aim at communism in other countries around the world, declaring that there is “no ideology” anymore, claiming that “even China and Russia are all capitalists now.”

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