17 cops face murder raps over deaths of two ‘Bloody Sunday’ victims

17 cops face murder raps over deaths of two �Bloody Sunday� victims
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 National Bureau of Investigation filed Friday murder complaints against 17 officers and personnel with the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group over the deaths of activists Ariel Evangelista and Ana Mariz Lemita-Evangelista during a raid in March 2021.

“This filing comes as the culmination of months of tireless work on the part of the Administrative Order No. 35 (s. 2012) Special Investigation Team that conducted the investigation and case buildup with the invaluable and diligent assistance of the NBI,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

The DOJ said that it will now begin with the preliminary investigation on the case “with all due consideration to the families of the victims and the constitutional rights of the alleged perpetrators.”

The Evangelista couple, staff members of environmental group Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwasak ng Kalikasan, were among nine killed in what activists call the “Bloody Sunday” raids in the provinces of Rizal, Batangas and Cavite which came just days after President Rodrigo Duterte told state forces to immediately shoot suspected rebels in encounters.

These murder raps over the deaths of the Evangelistas follow the murder complaint filed against a handful of policemen over the killing of Manny Asuncion, coordinator of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Cavite, who were also among the activists killed during the Bloody Sunday raids.

The DOJ said the preliminary investigation on the killing of Asuncion is in the process of being transferred to their main office under the Office of the Prosecutor General.

The DOJ also said that a special investigation team was directed last month to file the appropriate complaint over the killing of Melvin Dagsinao, also among the activists slain during the raids.

The investigation into the killing of Dagsinao’s fellow organizer and member of urban poor advocacy group SIKKAD-K3, Mark Bacasno, “would continue until all relevant and necessary evidence have been gathered,” the DOJ said.

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed the murder raps, but urged the investigating panel to also probe the culpability of officials of Duterte's controversial anti-communist task force and former police chief Debold Sinas “who incited and encouraged violence.”

Karapatan is also asking the judge who issued the search warrants, regional and provincial level police, and military officials to be held accountable. — Xave Gregorio with reports from Kristine Joy Patag and Gaea Katreena Cabico

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