Rights groups on Sunday condemned what they called a “massacre” of 14 farmers by police in the central Philippines as
authorities defended the incident as a legitimate operation against suspected communist rebels.
Police say the 14 men on Saturday shot at officers with search warrants for illegal firearms, prompting them to return fire.
But rights groups insist the men were “farmers asserting their rights to land”, the latest victims caught up in a violent
crackdown under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte’s government has cancelled peace talks with communist rebels who are waging a 50-year-old insurgency that has
killed thousands and has ordered his troops to “destroy” them.
Authorities say the operation was a response to communist rebel attacks in Negros, adding one policeman was wounded.
“They fought back against our operating units. We were forced to fire back. Some of (the 14 men) are farmers but we cannot
confirm how many,” says provincial Police Spokesman Edilberto Euraoba.
However, rights and peasant groups said the 14 men killed on Saturday were farmers, some elderly, citing witness accounts
contradicting the police’s statement.