MANILA – Malacañang on Saturday strongly denied that President Rodrigo Duterte had directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to deny the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) access to reports on the killings of human rights activists and defenders in the country.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement a day after CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento claimed that the commission’s investigation into the deaths of 89 human rights defenders had been stalled because of Duterte’s supposed intervention.
“There is no truth to the alleged report that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte instructed the Philippine National Police not to release or share their information to the Commission on Human Rights regarding the recent attacks against right defenders and activists,” Roque said in a press statement.
CHR is conducting a probe into the killings of human rights defenders and members of progressive groups that happened between 2017 and 2019.
Some of the slain activities and rights defenders were tagged as communists by state forces and under surveillance, before they were killed, Tanodra-Armamento said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Friday.
Tanodra-Armamento said the investigations on the 89 cases of killed human rights activists have yet to conclude because “there is an order from the President himself not to give the Commission on Human Rights the data” related to their deaths.
She added that CHR investigators can no longer rely on the police, unlike in the past that the commission was enjoying the cops’ cooperation when they were still under then PNP chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
Contrary to Tanodra-Armamento’s claim, the Duterte government is “equally interested” to know the identities of people behind the “brazen” killings of the human rights defenders, Roque said.
Roque said identifying the culprits would absolve state agents who are being blamed for the deaths of the human rights activists.
“We will leave no stone unturned to put these people behind bars,” he said.
Roque also ensured that Duterte, as a lawyer, adheres to the rule of law.
“He (Duterte) wants the wheels of justice to grind, for the sake of the victims of abuse and violence and their families,” he said. Meanwhile, the PNP also denied the allegation.
“The Philippine National Police categorically denies that President Rodrigo Duterte issued any order prohibiting the release of information or data with regard to the ongoing investigation on the recent attacks against rights defenders and activists,” the PNP Public Infomation Office said in a statement.
It added that the PNP strictly complies with all procedures based on the Rules on Evidence and the Data Privacy Law mandating the protection of identities while the investigation on crime incidents is pending.
It also said that once a case is filed with the prosecutor’s office, the PNP cannot disclose any details without clearance from the assigned prosecutor.
The PNP said the CHR is free to launch its own investigation and “to develop and procure its own evidence.”
“This is independent and separate from the standard protocols of the Philippine National Police,” it added. Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos with reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA – northboundasia.com