DOJ conducts special probe into activist killings in Bicol

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) created special investigating teams to probe the killings of 3 activists in the Bicol region.

Ryan Hubilla, a 22-year-old senior high school student, and Nelly Bagasala, 69, both human rights workers for the group Karapatan, were gunned down by unidentified men in Sorsogon last Saturday, June 15.

A couple of days later, on Monday, June 17, former Bayan Muna Bicol regional coordinator Neptali Moraga was killed in Naga City, Camarines Sur.

"Acting pursuant to Administrative Order (AO) No. 35, the Secretary of Justice (Menardo Guevarra) directed prosecutors to head the investigating teams tasked to ascertain if the incidents are politically motivated, and to assist in the buildup of cases for the successful prosecution of those responsible," Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said on Wednesday, June 19.

AO No. 35 was signed during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III. It seeks to resolve cases of enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of persons.

For a time, the DOJ used this to present data on the prosecution of cases involving extrajudicial killings, but later clarified that its data did not cover killings under Oplan Tokhang.

"The prosecutors are required to submit their report to the AO 35 Secretariat within 30 days from the creation of the special investigating teams," Perete said.

Since 2001, at least 613 human rights defenders have been killed, according to Karapatan. The Philippines has continuously been among the 6 countries that account for 80% of the deaths of defenders worldwide, along with Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. –


Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.