Karapatan presses CHR to investigate killings of Albay activists, reiterates call to stop the killings in PH

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) must pursue an independent investigation into the killings of peasant leader Jaymar Palero and activist Marlon Naperi in Guinobatan, Albay, human rights watchdog Karapatan urged, as the group called into question the police’s “nanlaban” narrative in the killings of two activists — particularly with President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders for the police and the military to shoot alleged communists dead during his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) just hours after Palero and Naperi were killed.

“Duterte has been clear with his policy, and he reiterated this during his SONA with his ‘shoot-them dead’ order. Just a few hours before, policemen killed Jaymar Palero and Marlon Naperi while they were reportedly painting protest graffiti. The police claimed that the two activists fired at them— but how many times have we heard this ‘nanlaban’ narrative and how it has been repeatedly disproven, especially when witnesses to the incident show that the two activists were murdered in cold blood? We strongly call on the CHR to investigate these killings,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Palero was a member of the Organisasyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Albay while Naperi was a construction worker and a member of the Albay People’s Organization, an affiliate of Karapatan – Bicol. According to two other activists who were with them to spray paint protest graffiti on the night of July 25, a white Toyota Hilux pickup truck stopped by them around 10 p.m. and a man inside the vehicle pointed a .45-caliber gun at them. When they saw that there were other armed individuals inside, one of them was able to speed off in their motorcycle, while the other was able to run and hide nearby.

Both of them had no knowledge on the situation or whereabouts of Palero and Naperi following the incident until they heard radio news reports in the morning of July 26 that, around 1 a.m., the police allegedly engaged in a shootout and killed two armed men who were apprehended while supposedly spray painting “Duterte ibagsak” (down with Duterte) in Banao Bridge along Maharlika Highway. The graffiti, however, was left unfinished as “Duterte ibags” and the two men were identified as Palero and Naperi as the police claimed that they recovered firearms from them.

Palero sustained three gunshot wounds: two on the back with one of them piercing through his body, while another gunshot wound was found on his right hand. He also had a black eye on his right eye, and three nails from his left foot were removed — suggesting that he was tortured and made to suffer before he was shot dead. Meanwhile, Naperi’s body bore two gunshot wounds on the back. Far from the “nanlaban” narrative, Palabay asserted that “both witness accounts and the gunshot wounds in the two activists’ bodies strongly suggest that they were murdered without a fight.”

“We have heard this same story for the past five years in the drug war, and now, the ‘nanlaban’ narrative is being used to vilify activists and falsely red-tagging them as armed rebels even after killing them in fabricated armed encounters. We cannot let these murderous campaigns continue — and as we demand justice for Jaymar Palero and Marlon Naperi, we assert that there can only be genuine justice if the killings stop, and if Duterte is prosecuted and finally held accountable for his bloody crimes against the Filipino people,” the Karapatan official ended.