A year since 'Bloody Sunday' raids: 34 cops face murder raps, harassment of activists continues

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
A year since 'Bloody Sunday' raids: 34 cops face murder raps, harassment of activists continues
Human rights groups and progressive formations gather at the Commission on Human Rights compound to condemn the Bloody Sunday raids in Calabarzon on March 7, 2021.
Karapatan, Release

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:06 p.m.) — Human rights and labor groups called for swift action on the complaints filed against state forces involved in the “Bloody Sunday” raids that killed nine activists in Calabarzon.

A year after activists were killed as police and military personal executed search warrants on March 7, 2021, rights watchdog Karapatan and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno said that attacks against and red-tagging of human rights defenders and unionists continue.

Union leader Manny Asuncion, and fisherfolk leaders Ariel Evangelista and Chai Lemita-Evangelista, housing rights activists Melvin Dasigao and Mark Lee Bacasno, indigenous Dumagat farmers Puroy and Randy Dela Cruz, and banana farmers Edward and Abner Esto were killed during simultaneous police and military operations in Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. Authorities also arrested several others during the raids.

The victims were activists or members of leftist groups that state forces repeatedly accuse of being fronts for communist rebels.

In December last year, a murder complaint was filed against 17 policemen over the killing of Asuncion on the recommendation of the Department of Justice.

In January, the National Bureau of Investigation filed murder complaints against 17 members of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group over the killing of the Evangelista couple.

"Instead of immediately acting on the complaints filed against state forces involved in the massacre and arrests, what the Duterte administration did was to use 'Bloody Sunday' as a threat to workers tirelessly fighting for just wages, job security, and respect for labor rights," said KMU chairperson and senatorial candidate Elmer “Bong” Labog said.

"The Bloody Sunday massacre has become a precedent of worsening attacks on union leaders and community organizers," he added, noting the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) continues to intimidate and label workers and unionists as rebels.

KMU also called on the Department of Labor and Employment to allow a physical high-level mission by the International Labour Organization to expedite the probes into killings of trade union leaders, organizers and activists.

Human rights advocacy and activism are routinely equated with insurgency in the Philippines, according to a report of the United Nations Human Rights Office said in 2020 that said that vilification of dissent and attacks against perceived critics of the government were being “increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse.”

Karapatan: Duterte, NTF-ELCAC must be held accountable

The raids came two days after President Rodrigo Duterte told security forces they could kill communist rebels and “ignore human rights.”

"We also assert that blood is not only upon the hands of the policemen involved in the raids: President Duterte’s kill-kill-kill orders, the red-tagging of NTF-ELCAC officials, and the judges who issued the warrants have clearly and directly led to this gruesome bloodshed a year ago," Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor said.

Clamor said the killings and arrests during the dawn raids followed “tokhang-style” patterns since those killed were unarmed civilians and were sleeping.

"Even when they pleaded for their lives, they were mercilessly murdered while illegal weapons were planted in their homes to further the ‘nanlaban’ narrative and justify these killings, as the Duterte administration has repeatedly done in its sham and brutal drug war," he added.

In 2020, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the Philippine government needs to revoke policies and rhetoric that result in killings and other human rights violations.

"To put an end to the proliferation of human rights violations, we must address the root cause: state policy and funding of military operations, such as the NTF-ELCAC," Labog said. 

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