Kin of activists killed in Calabarzon raids meet with DOJ, express fear for their safety

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Kin of activists killed in Calabarzon raids meet with DOJ, express fear for their safety
Various human rights groups and progressive including Karapatan held protests on March 7 at the Commission on Human Rights compound to condemn the Bloody Sunday raids in Calabarzon region that resulted in nine deaths and six arrests.
Karapatan / released

MANILA, Philippines — More than a month since the bloody Calabarzon raids, the families of victims told the Department of Justice that they continue to fear for their safety in their first meeting with the government officials since the killings in March.

"We found the meeting very encouraging as the process of investigation as well as the participation of witnesses were clarified," Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, who attended the meeting on Wednesday afternoon, said in a statement.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers Secretary General Ephraim Cortez and some families of the victims went to the DOJ for the meeting.

Group Defend Southern Tagalog said the dialogue with the DOJ is "only one of the various avenues that the kin and colleagues of the now-dubbed Calabarzon 9 have explored in the pursuit of justice."

The Department of Justice’s Administrative Order 35 task force, formed to investigate extrajudicial killings, announced that they will look into the killings in the bloody Calabarzon raids on March 7 and the murder of Miguel on March 28.

RELATED: Dandy Miguel, well-loved labor leader, laid to rest after murder

In March alone, ten activists were killed in the Calabarzon region. Simultaneous police raids in three provinces left nine killed and six other were arrested. Three weeks later, labor leader Miguel was shot while he was on his way home in Laguna.

During the meeting, Reyes said, "survivors and witnesses also expressed fear for their safety as their communities are militarized."

He added: "This should be addressed in the course of the investigation."

‘Fear envelops our communities’

In a video posted by Defend Southern Tagalog, Rosalinda Salundaga said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told them that the department is willing to help them.

Salundaga is the common-law wife of Melvin Dasidao, a human rights defender who fought for the rights of the urban poor in Rizal.

But she added that she also wishes they receive help soonest because even though it has been more than six months since the bloody raids, their community is still enveloped in fear.

"The anxiety in our community will not go away. There is fear every crack of dawn since my husband was killed. When dogs bark, we wake up. We always lack sleep because we watch over when dogs are barking because people we don’t know are roaming around," Salundaga said in Filipino.

Rosenda Lemita, the mother of Chai Lemita-Evangelista and in-law of Ariel Evangelista, said the dialogue went well, but they wish justice would be given faster so fear in the community will go away.

"What the police did to us is not fair. They were brutally murdered," she said.

The Evangelistas are leaders of progressive group for fisherfolk Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan. They were killed in Batangas, during the bloody Sunday raids.

Like Salundaga, Lemita shared dogs keep barking in wee hours of the morning. “We are scared to go out on the streets,” she added.

A Rappler report said the internal affairs service of the Batangas police has recommended the filing of administrative raps for grave irregularity over performance of duty against cops who led the operation where the Evangelistas were killed.

Defend ST spokesperson Charm Maranan said for the bereaved families, accepting the tragic fate of their loves is hard enough.

 “But the search for justice compounds this burden. If for anything, these families do not just seek justice, but also to make sure that nobody would suffer the same way they are now,” Maranan also said.



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