Human rights group seeks probe into IP killings on Panay Island

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines December 31) — A human rights group is calling for an investigation on the killings and arrests of members of an indigenous people's group after a joint police and military operation on Panay Island.

Karapatan said many of these IP members were also red-tagged by authorities due to their opposition to militarization in their communities, and the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam project in Iloilo.

"These killings and arrests are meant to instill fear upon indigenous communities in order to silence their opposition to so-called development projects that encroach upon their ancestral domains and right to self-determination," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

The group also slammed the claim of the police that those killed fought back when the operation was being conducted.

"The police and the military are already peddling the tokhang-style 'nanlaban' narrative and red-tagging them to somehow justify these killings, but the narratives from their relatives and their communities themselves debunk all the lies to prove one thing: this is a gruesome, cold-blooded rampage of killings," Palabay added.

Early morning of December 30, members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Western Visayas and military men served search warrants in Tapaz, Capiz province, and Calinog, Iloilo against supposed members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The operation led to the deaths of nine people, of which seven were identified as IP leaders. At least 17 others were arrested.

The family of Eliseo Gayas, Jr., one of the killed IP leaders, said they were ordered to go out of their house before armed operatives entered and killed Gaya with four gunshots. Others claimed authorities forcibly entered their homes then killed their relatives.