MANILA, Philippines—Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas on Monday (March 8) said its simultaneous operations in Southern Tagalog that led to the killing and arrest of several activists were "legitimate."
The police raids on Sunday (March 7) led to the killing of nine people in the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. At least 15 people had been arrested and four escaped.
"It's a legitimate operation because they are covered by search warrants," Sinas said.
"If you only knew how hard it its to secure search warrants then you would understand you have to justify to the judge and bring new witnesses," he told reporters, speaking in Filipino.
"Those are legitimate operations covered properly by the documents issued by the court," he said.
Security forces, he said, had search warrants for cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges.
Activist groups called for an investigation into the police operations, which they said were meant to silence dissent.
Cristina Palabay, national secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, urged the Commission on Human Rights to look into the raids and ensure justice was served.
"We will not be silenced, and we call on all Filipinos to condemn these raids and to stand with us in the struggle for justice and in defending people's rights," she said.
Militant group Bagong Alyanang Makabayan (Bayan) said the operations came on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte's order last week to police and military to "kill them all" referring to communist rebels. He gave the order at the launch in Cagayan de Oro City of community projects by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Eclat), which Duterte created and had been billions of pesos in funding.
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