Karapatan slams Tokhang-style killing in Bicol

Karapatan strongly condemned the tokhang-style killing of Alfredo Merilos and companion Liz Ocampo by combined elements of the 9th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) and the Philippine National Police- Camarines Sur on March 15, 2018 in a subdivision in Cararayan, Naga City, Camarines Sur. 

A statement from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) – Bicol Information Office claimed that Merilos is indeed a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), but has since been considered hors de combat, or person rendered incapable of participating in armed conflict, due to his illness. He was scheduled to have a heart bypass surgery in Naga City prior to his killing. The victim also previously suffered a mild stroke. Merilos’ companion, Ocampo, was a former overseas worker and current local government employee in Camarines Sur. Contrary to police reports, witnesses attest that both were unarmed when the incident occurred.

Under the Geneva Convention, also echoed in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), “persons considered hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely.” This includes the responsibility of all parties in the armed conflict to prohibit any and all forms of violence to life and person, including killings, torture and taking of hostages. The said instruments also mandate both parties to the armed conflict to collect and care for wounded and sick combatants under their custody.

Karapatan also noted that CARHRIHL was signed on March 16, 1998, marking its 20th year this 2018. “Despite such agreements, international humanitarian law violations have continued and even intensified. State security forces, emboldened by the fascist path undertaken by Duterte, have blurred the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, deliberately disregarding human rights. Justifying their actions through false claims of an encounter, the military and the police think that they can escape accountability and completely undermine laws and agreements that aim to establish the responsibility of both parties to still uphold human rights,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan also noted the recent killing of Victorino Tesorio and Lolito Rasa on February 6, 2018 by elements of the PNP Regional Office Region 3 in Cagayan Valley. Tesorio, 70, and Rasa, 58, were both former members of the New People’s Army at the time of their killing. Their bodies bore signs of torture and cruel treatment. Neighbors also testified that there were no exchange of gunfire, despite police reports claiming otherwise. Tesorio sustained. According to the autopsy report of the PNP Scene of the Crimes Operatives, Merilos’s body sustained three gun shot wounds affecting his heart, liver, spine and large intestines, while Ocampo sustained seven gunshot wounds. 

“In both incidents, the police claimed to have been serving warrants; they also asserted that an encounter ensued. Witnesses however have disputed this, indicating an intent to kill on the part of the authorities. Clearly, blatant killings and violations made palatable by fake and twisted narratives are the hallmark of the Duterte regime, especially in the course of its drug war and counterinsurgency campaign. This government’s notoriety is not only in breaching and knowingly violating national and international laws protecting human rights, but also in unilaterally and imprudently pulling out of treaties that can serve as a platform for accountability,” concluded Palabay.