Karapatan hits Sinas for police operations resulting in killings of Topacio, Magpantay, arrest of Amanda Echanis

Human rights group Karapatan criticized Philippine National Police chief General Debold Sinas for his recent statements regarding police actions during their operations that has led to the killing of Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, both consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines last week, November 25, and the arrest of woman peasant organizer Amanda Echanis on December 2. Amanda, 32, daughter of slain activist Randy Echanis and a mother to a month-old child, was illegally arrested in Cagayan.

“The family and colleagues of Magpantay and Topacio have each and every right to question the nanlaban narrative of Sinas and the Philippine National Police, which they used to justify the death of the couple. Magpantay and Topacio were sick and elderly, very much incapacitated to even take care of their own needs, when the police barged in, in the middle of the night, and killed them. How can they possibly fight back? Sinas’ logic defies reason and logic,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.

Ni hindi na nga raw makatayo at magalaw nang maayos ang kahit sino sa mag-asawa, tapos yung gasgas na linya pa na nanlaban daw sila gamit ang napakaraming armas at pambomba ang sinasabi nitong PNP (Either of the couple can’t even stand and move on their own, and yet the PNP wants their family to believe that they resisted arrest using high-powered guns and explosives),” she stated.

In the case of nursing mother Amanda Echanis, Karapatan said that the planting of evidence, especially guns and bombs, on activists has long been alleged as a form of legal manuever of authorities to arrest and keep them in jail.

“Many political prisoners have been charged with these offenses and many have been dismissed or acquitted of the charges. But what is extremely unjust is that they are imprisoned for many years despite their innocence of the charges. Sinas has been cited in independent fact-finding reports and factsheets as the police official in command of cops who conducted these so-called warranted searches, resulting in arrests or deaths,” she said.

Palabay said that independent findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights show that in the government’s anti-narcotics campaign, there is a pattern suggesting planting of evidence by police officers and casting doubt on the self-defence narrative, implying that the victims were likely unarmed were killed.

“This is the reason why it is important to question the rule on presumption of regularity in police operations because of many allegations that the police violate their own regulations and the law. Presumption of innocence should remain as paramount in the course of police operations in serving warrants,” she averred.

Karapatan called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate Sinas and the many cases of such violations attributed to him. “Only an independent investigation, one that is not tainted or influenced by the President’ blanket declaration of immunity for Sinas’s acts, can thoroughly and substantially investigate on these allegations of human rights violations by Sinas,” Palabay concluded.