The Negros Oriental Commission on Human Rights chief, Jess Cañete, will investigate “motu proprio” (by his own initiative) the purported human rights violations in Sta. Catalina town, after an encounter between government troops and suspected New People's Army rebels about two weeks ago.
He said yesterday he will again visit Barangay Talalak in Sta. Catalina town this week to further investigate allegations of human rights (HR) violations allegedly committed by soldiers of the Army's 79 th Infantry Battalion.
He said that last week, he already started questioning some people there to determine if there were casualties after two days of sporadic clashes between soldiers and alleged rebels June 13 and 14 in Talalak.
In that incident, no casualties were reported on both sides, although the Army believes that some of the alleged rebels were wounded, based on the bloodstains found on their route of withdrawal.
Cañete said, so far, his office has not received any official complaints of human rights violations, even as the Promotion of Church People's Response of the Holy Family Parish in Lumbangan, Mabinay town in Negros Oriental, claimed a variety of supposed HR violations.
These include illegal search, harassment, destruction of properties, indiscriminate firing, psychological torture and theft, among others, which Cañete said he would also investigate.
He said Talalak Brgy. Captain Edmar Bigay called him yesterday morning to ask for advice on the planned visit of the PCPR and other militant groups to conduct fact-finding missions on the latest encounters.
Cañete said he has advised Bigay not to stop these people from entering the barangay, although he hoped that there would be coordination with local officials and law enforcement agencies, such as the Philippine National Police, as embodied in Provincial Ordinance No. 5.
The ordinance, Cañete said, is flawed and needs amendment even though its primary objective is to allow for proper coordination among civil society groups and other similarly-natured organizations, such as outreach missions, local government officials and law enforcement agencies for security and safety purposes.
Cañete is calling on the PCPR and complainants to appear before his office so he can further investigate the alleged HR violations purportedly carried out by soldiers.
He added the 79 th IB will also be subpoenaed as part of the probe and they will be made to answer the allegations leveled against them.*JFP
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