PNP orders probe of cops who shot dead two activists caught spray-painting anti-Duterte slogans

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 28) — The Philippine National Police has ordered an investigation into its members’ alleged killing of two activists who were reportedly caught spray-painting anti-government slogans on Monday.

PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar made the directive on Wednesday amid conflicting claims from police and human rights groups regarding the shooting incident.

The two victims from the province of Albay did not even get to finish their slogan on the day President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his final State of the Nation Address, as they were killed by the police early Monday morning, the human rights group said.

Jemar Palero of the Organisasyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Albay and Marlon Naperi of the Albay People's Organization were shot while they were reportedly painting graffiti on the Banao Bridge along Maharlika Highway.

The words "DUTERTE IBAGS" -- meant to say "DUTERTE IBAGSAK" -- were sprayed on the beams.

PMaj. Joseph Jarabejo of Guinobatan Municipal Police Station told news organization Bicol.PH that the two men drew their firearms when authorities on board a patrol car approached them. He also said the police had "no choice" but to retaliate.

Rights groups are not buying the statement of the police that the two activists drew fire. Karapatan said the two activists were unarmed.

"Allegations of the 'nanlaban' narrative that the victims fought back and they possessed guns are not only ludicrously false they are unbelievable tall tales because both were unarmed activists and they surely did not bear arms while doing graffiti," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement on Tuesday.

Anakbayan condemned the killing of the two men who were only expressing their rage against the Duterte administration through art.

"Buhay pa nang hinuli si Palero at Naperi, ngunit makalipas ang ilang oras ay pinatay ng mga armadong pwersa ng rehimen. Ipinalabas din ng mga pulis na 'nanlaban' sina Palero at Naperi, at tinaniman pa ng .45 calibre at 38 revolver," it said in a statement. "Tuluy-tuloy na naghahasik ang kapulisan at militar gawa ng lantarang suporta ni Duterte sa paglabag sa karapatan ng mamamayan."

[Translation: Palero and Naperi were still alive when they were arrested, but after a few hours, they were killed by uniformed personnel. Police also claimed they fought back and planted .45 calibre at 38 revolver on them. The police and military continue to feed Duterte's human rights violations.]

Eleazar said he has directed the Internal Affairs Service to facilitate and expedite the probe into the incident.

He added he has ordered that the involved cops be placed under restrictive custody while investigation is ongoing.

“Makakaasa ang ating mga kababayan ng patas at malalimang imbestigasyon tungkol sa kasong ito so in the meantime, hayaan nating umusad ang isinasagawang pagsisiyasat sa seryosong alegasyon tungkol dito,” he said.

[Translation: The public can be assured of a fair and thorough investigation into this serious allegation, so in the meantime, let us allow the probe to take its course.]