MANILA – The Duterte administration supports the role of activists in society, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said on Monday amid allegations that state agents are behind the deaths of two activists who were murdered just days apart.
PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar assured that the government will run after the perpetrators involved in the killings of human rights activists and defenders in the country.
“It is within the Duterte administration’s interest and policy to support the role of activists in a pluralistic society,” Andanar said in a statement. “The government has leveraged such role in pursuing the inclusive social agenda to promote programs and services for the welfare of all Filipinos.”
He denied that President Rodrigo Duterte directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to withhold information from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regarding reports on activists’ murders.
“Reports that President Rodrigo Duterte has allegedly deterred information-sharing and coordination between the Philippine National Police and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) are baseless, erroneous and misleading,” he said.
According to Andanar, authorities have been directed to exhaust efforts to bring perpetrators behind bars.
He said the Department of Justice has formed a separate special investigating team on the death of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant and peasant leader Randall Echanis.
The body has also recommended the inclusion of and the conduct of an inquiry into Negros-based activist Zara Alvarez’ death, he added.
Despite criticisms, Andanar assured that the administration adheres to the rule of law.
“Upholding the due process and rule of law will continue to be observed and promoted by this administration,” he said.
He added the government is determined to complete the investigations and prosecution of the perpetrators “of such repulsive acts on political activists and seeing them brought to justice, for the families of their victims.”
On Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there is no truth to reports that Duterte directed the PNP to deny the CHR access to reports on the killings of human rights activists and defenders.
Roque said the Duterte administration is “equally interested” to know the identities of people behind the “brazen” killings of the human rights defenders.
He noted that identifying the culprits would absolve state forces who are being blamed for the deaths of the human rights activists.
CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento earlier claimed that the commission’s investigation into the deaths of 89 human rights defenders had been stalled because of government’s supposed intervention.
CHR is conducting a probe into the killings of human rights defenders and members of progressive groups that happened between 2017 and 2019.
Earlier, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm over the deaths of Echanis and Alvarez as they were tagged as communists before they were murdered. (PNA)