Expert: 'Bloody Sunday' victims shot in the chest, full homicide probe needed

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Expert: 'Bloody Sunday' victims shot in the chest, full homicide probe needed
This photo shows a protester holding the photo of couple Chai Lemita at Ariel Evangelista who are among the nine activists killed in the bloody Calabarzon raids on March 7.
Kilusang Mayo Uno / released

MANILA, Philippines — The nine activists killed in the "Bloody Sunday" raids in March were all shot in the chest and the deaths merit homicide investigations, forensic pathologist Racquel Fortun said.

Fortun, in a virtual press conference with Defend Southern Tagalog on Wednesday, presented her findings on autopsy examinations she did on the bodies of the nine activists.

“All of them had shots in the chest, shot to be killed,” Fortun said

“Each case deserves a homicide investigation,” she also said, adding that the cases were all of “violent deaths.”

Nine activists were killed in separate operations for enforcement of search warrants in Calabarzon towns on March 7. Police claimed that they were killed because they “fought back,” a claim their families rejected.

Relatives also asserted that accusations that the activists had guns and explosives were baseless.

Fortun admitted that the autopsy they conducted was difficult as the bodies were already embalmed and gunshot wounds have already been sutured.

Only eight of the bodies were autopsied and only two cases were submitted with clothes on their body. Fortun said examining the clothes could also help in determining the passage of bullets and documentation of what happened in the shooting.

Manny Asuncion case

Fortun said only the autopsy on the remains of BAYAN-Cavite coordinator Manny Asuncion was completed.

The police said there was a chase from his house in Rosario, Cavite to the office of the Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmariñas, Cavite, but Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer Labog and Defend Southern Tagalog’s Charmane Maranan refuted this and said Asuncion and his wife had been staying at the office since Saturday night.

Fortun said the autopsy found three gunshot wounds in the anterior chest of Asuncion. “Which one killed him? The three gunshot wounds in… his upper chest. If he had not been shot, he would not have died,” she said.

Casey Ann Cruz, regional coordinator of Bayan-Southern Tagalog, also said a ballistic examination was also conducted with a local prosecutor.

In the case of Chay Evangelista, who was killed with her husband Ariel in Nasugbu, Batangas, Fortun said they noted a “huge injury” in one arm that may indicate it a defense type or attempt to shield her body from shooting.

The Evangelistas were leaders of Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan, a progressive group for fisherfolk.

Fortun also took note of the death of labor leader Dandy Miguel, whose brutal killing happened three weeks after the bloody raids.

She recalled that Miguel had been coordinating with them and the families for the autopsies. “One big question: Who would have wanted him killed?”

“Each case deserves a homicide investigation,” she added.

Government probe

The Department of Justice-led Administrative Order 35 Task Force’s special investigation team is already looking into the killings.

Families of the victims met with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on April 21, more than a month since the killings. The families expressed fear for their safety and for their communities.

Defend ST’s Maranan pushed for a faster investigation into the killings. “As of now, Defend Southern Tagalog with legal counsels and families, we are calling on offices of the perpetrators to give relevant documents. The AO35 created in the provincial level is progressing but very very slowly,” she noted.

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