Widow of activist killed in 'Bloody Sunday' raid appeals junked murder rap vs cops

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Widow of activist killed in 'Bloody Sunday' raid appeals junked murder rap vs cops
Members of Defend Southern Tagalog hold a protest rally in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) office in Manila on January 18 after the DOJ dismissed the murder charges against 17 police officers involved in killing of labor leader Manny Asuncion on March 7, 2021.
The STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:35 p.m.) — The wife of slain labor leader Manny Asuncion has asked the Department of Justice to set aside its earlier resolution and indict the police officers tagged in the killing of her activist husband in one of the "Bloody Sunday" raids in 2021.

In a motion for reconsideration filed on Thursday, Liezel Asuncion asked the state prosecutor to set aside its earlier resolution and issue a new one "finding probable cause, indicting the respondents for murder as a result of the brutal death" of Asuncion.

Liezel, through her counsels from Free Legal Assistance Group-Cavite and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, appealed the dismissal of her murder rap after prosecutors held that she failed to identify the perpetrators of the killing. Prosecutors also said the report from the Special Investigation Team only presented circumstantial evidence that are "broken and incomplete."

Manny Asuncion was the coordinator of activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Cavite. He was one of the activists and community leaders killed in simultaneous raids early March morning in 2021 by police serving search warrants in Calabarzon provinces.

‘Extrajudicial killing’

In appealing the dismissed complaint, the complainant argued that "positive identification of respondents can still be done despite the absence of eyewitness or direct evidence."

Liezel said that her and her witnesses’ testimonies, respondents’ admissions in their counter-affidavits and documentary evidence form circumstantial evidence in the case.

She also argued that the case is an extrajudicial killing, which was defined by the Supreme Court as whose victims are "ordinarily executed in a clandestine manner, and as such, its commission is largely concealed from the public view of any witnesses."

Citing the SC, they said that cases involving EJKs "should be resolved with a more circumspect analysis of the incidental factors" such as likely presence of the persons accused at the place and time the killing was committed, the manner in which the victim was killed, or the possibility that the assailants overpowered the victims.

"It is Complainant’s humble submission that the circumstantial evidence, when taken altogether and following the guidelines laid down by jurisprudence in analyzing EJKs, inevitably point to the Respondents, who acted in conspiracy with one another, as the persons responsible, liable and accountable for the brutal killing of her husband," the motion read.

She also claimed that the community of design in the act is when the police officers "came together" to obey then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to "kill the activists" in a speech given two days before the raids were carried out.

Liezel asserted that the "extrajudicial killing of Manny is not isolated" but was well-coordinated for the purpose of killing of activists who were non-combatant civilians.

"All told, there is therefore clear grounds to reverse the assailed Resolution of the panel of the Honorable State Prosecutors. To do otherwise will be to cause serious failure of justice and grave violation of constitutional and human rights, not just the victims but of the whole Filipino people," the motion read.

"This will go down in the dark annals of history."

Motion for inhibition

In a separation motion also filed Thursday, Liezel moved for the recusal of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rodan Parrocha from resolving their appeal, citing his participation in the department's Counter-Terrorism Task Force.

She noted in her motion for inhibition that Parrocha is the head of the six-member panel of prosecutors tasked to prosecute raps against suspected members of what the government calls Communist Terrorist Groups. Government agencies, including the Philippine National Police, routinely refer to national democratic activists groups as "CTGs".

Liezel pointed out that her husband was identified as a "Communist Terrorist Group" member and the incident was part of the implementation of COPLAN ASVAL.

"Considering that Complainant’s husband, Emmanuel ‘Ka Manny’ Asuncion was targeted under the COPLAN ASVAL that was devised to neutralize and impair the alleged criminal operation of suspected members of CTGs, this taints the impartiality of the head of the panel of prosecutors from objectively considering the evidence presented by both parties," her motion read.

"From the foregoing, it is Complainant’s humble submission to seek the voluntary recusal of [Parrocha] from further resolving this case," it added.

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