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First murder rap readied vs law enforcers over 'Bloody Sunday' raids

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
First murder rap readied vs law enforcers over 'Bloody Sunday' raids
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 — The task force investigating politically-motivated killings is set to file murder complaints over the killing of activist Manny Asuncion, the first criminal rap to be filed against law enforcers following the probe into the "Bloody Sunday" raids in March.

“In the case of the death of Emmanuel Asuncion, the [Administrative Order 35] Special Investigating Team has recommended the filing of murder [raps] against certain law enforcement agents involved in the incident,” Guevarra said Wednesday.

The justice chief clarified that the complaint over the killing of Asuncion, BAYAN-Cavite coordinator, will still have to undergo preliminary investigation, where the law enforcers will have the opportunity to file their counter-affidavits.

Eight months since the incident, this complaint is the first complaint to be filed following the AO 35 investigation into raids in Calabarzon that left nine activists dead.

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. 

They said Asuncion and his wife had been staying at the office since the night prior to the incident.

They said Asuncion's house was searched at 4 a.m., before he was supposedly chased to Dasmariñas and eventually killed at around 5 a.m.

Labog said the police claim was a "blatant lie."

‘Shot to be killed’

Forensic pathologist Racquel Fortun, who performed an autopsy on Asuncion’s body, earlier said they found three gunshot wounds in the anterior chest of Asuncion.

The forensic expert said in July that the autopsy examinations that she did showed that the nine activists were all shot in the chest, and were "shot to be killed."

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

Guevarra meanwhile said that the National Bureau of Investigation is wrapping up its probe into the killings of couple Chay and Ariel Evangelista, leaders of Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan, a progressive group for fisherfolk.

"In the case of death of the Evangelista spouses, the NBI is winding up its interview of witnesses, and the [Special Investiative Team] report will be out in about two weeks," Guevarra said.

However, the AO35 SIT excluded in its investigation the killings of indigenous group leaders Puroy dela Cruz and Randy dela Cruz “as no cause-oriented connection was established,” the DOJ secretary said. He did not expound.

Meanwhile, other SIT investigations are ongoing, Guevarra added.

'Irregular' search warrants

BAYAN Secretary-General Nato Reyes said they welcome the filing of complaints, as he asserted that the service of the warrant and the death of Asuncion were irregular.

"The Asuncion criminal complaint is the first to be filed, but it shouldn’t be the last. All the nine killed in the police raids were unarmed and were murdered. They deserve justice," Reyes added.

KMU chairperson Elmer Labog meanwhile said they will continue to be vigilant. "We will continue to call for justice and that those who are behind the Bloody Sunday Massacre be put behind bars," he added in Filipino. Labog is a candidate for senator.

Rights group Karapatan welcomed the filing of raps but said others killed in the raids should also get justice. 

"Those who remain imprisoned such as human rights worker Nimfa Lanzanas should be released, and we continue to urge that similar murder charges be brought against the perpetrators and commanding officers involved in the killings of all the nine who were killed," the group also said.

READ: SC urged to be proactive, provide safeguards vs 'templated' warrants

The Bloody Sunday raids prompted stronger calls from lawyers and progressive groups for the Supreme Court to be more proactive as more activists and community leaders were killed in police operations to search warrants.

The SC has since issued a rule requiring law enforcement agents implementing arrest and search warrants to use at least two recording devices to document their operations.

The SC has limited the power of Manila and Quezon City executive and vice executive judges to issue search warrants outside their jurisdiction, an authority that progressive groups claimed has been weaponized against activists.

BLOODY SUNDAY DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MENARDO GUEVARRA
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