The leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) ordered on Wednesday an investigation into the deaths of two activists who were pointed by policemen in Albay of being involved in an alleged shootout.
PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said he ordered the Internal Affairs Service to lead the investigation. This, according to him, was to dispel allegations against policemen.
"For us to remove any kind of allegations over the deaths of the two supposed activists in Albay, I have tasked the Internal Affairs Service, under the leadership of Gen. Alfegar Triambulo, to focus and hasten the ongoing investigation to give light on what really happened," Eleazar said in a statement.
Policemen involved in the incident were also ordered to be placed under restrictive custody at the Bicol regional police office while the investigation is ongoing, he added.
Eleazar also called on witnesses during the incident to cooperate with investigators of the two activists' deaths.
Activists in Bicol have condemned the killing of Jemar Palero, 22, and Marlon Naperi, 38, who were allegedly shot dead by Albay policemen.
A police report by the Bicol police showed Palero and Naperi were spotted spraying paint at a bridge in Barangay Lower Binogsacan in Guinobatan, Albay. The two were reported to have sprayed the words "Duterte Ibags," meant to be completed into "Duterte Ibagsak" (Down with Duterte).
Police have said Palero and Naperi were armed with firearms and allegedly fired the first shots directed to the responding policemen. This transpired at 1 a.m. on Monday, hours before President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) lasting for almost three hours.
Eleazar then appealed to the public to let the investigation flow "and refrain from speculating until the final report and recommendations are done."
Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc and Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman filed a resolution urging the House of Representatives to issue condemnation and conduct an investigation on the killing of two activists in Albay.
In filing House Resolution 2033, the bloc group said, "it is imperative for members of the Congress, as representatives of our people, to defend the rights of our people and check on excesses and violations, especially in this time of crisis.
It also pointed out it must bring perpetrators to account to put a stop to the killings and rights violations against its people.
"Laws and rules should serve the interest of our people, and should not be weaponized to suppress their rights to oppress them," it added.
Palero is a member of Organisasyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Albay while Naperi is from the human rights group Albay People's Organization, an affiliate of rights group Karapatan-Bicol.
The two were gunned down just hours before Duterte's SONA. In his speech, Duterte repeated his "shoot them dead" remark against alleged communists.
According to police officers, the two activists allegedly fought, forcing them to shoot at the protestors.
However, rights groups condemned the killing and belied the police's "nanlaban" narrative. The rights groups said the two were unarmed and were only carrying spray paint.
The members of the Makabayan bloc include Bayan Muna Representatives Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Isagani Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite, Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Party-List Representative France Castro and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.
WITH REPORTS FROM LEA DEVIO