9 killed, 17 others nabbed in Panay

Nine people were killed while 17 others were arrested in the simultaneous police operations in Panay Island early Wednesday, December 30.
The Philippine National Police (PNP)-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Police Regional Office-6 (PRO-6), based in Iloilo City, simultaneously served 28 search warrants in the villages of Tapaz, Capiz province and Calinog, Iloilo province.
Based on the PRO-6 report, nine died and 10 were arrested in police operations at Tapaz, while seven suspects were nabbed in Calinog.
The suspects allegedly fought back the authorities during their arrest, which was vehemently denied by human rights group Panay Alliance Karapatan.
They claimed that the nine fatalities, who were members of the indigenous people (IP) belonging to the Panay Tumandok, were “massacred” by the authorities.
“Those killed were recognized indigenous community leaders in their respective barangays. They were civilians and not armed combatants. They have consistently opposed militarization and human rights violations in their communities as they upheld their rights as indigenous people,” the group said.
They added that the killed IPs have been red-tagged and accused by the military as members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
They identified the fatalities as Barangay Lahug kagawad and Tumandok chairperson Roy Giganto, Barangay Lahug kagawad Reynaldo Katipunan, Barangay Nayawan chieftain Galson Catamin, Eliseo Gayas Jr., Maurito Diaz, Artilito Katipunan Mario Aguirre, Jomar Vidal, and Rolando Diaz.
The arrested individuals were also part of the IP community, the group also said.
PRO-6, in a statement, said the operation was orchestrated based on the information from civilians in the area on the presence of personalities with high-powered firearms.
This operation is a regular law enforcement activity and aims to curb the proliferation of firearms and explosives in Panay Island, PRO-6 added.
House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate condemned the incident.
“This is the same modus operandi used by state forces in Negros Oriental on December 27, 2018 early morning raids when now PNP chief Gen.Debold Sinas was the regional commander of the Central Visayas PNP,” he said.
He recalled that six farmers were killed while 31 were arrested at that time.   
“They were just farmers asserting their rights to their land. With Sinas as the PNP chief, this type of questionable and bloody operations is apparently becoming the norm,” he said.
“Just like in Negros then, the identified victims were known leaders in their respective barangays and people’s organizations. Due to their strong resistance against destructive projects and their continuous fight for IP rights, they have been red-tagged by security forces and Jeffrey Celis, as a front organization of the CPP-NPA,” Zarate said.
“We demand that these attacks and senseless killings be stopped now,” he said.*