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Two years since 'Bloody Sunday,' calls for justice, accountability and peace continue to ring

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Two years since 'Bloody Sunday,' calls for justice, accountability and peace continue to ring
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 — Two years since the “Bloody Sunday” killings that claimed the lives of nine activists and indigenous community leaders, rights groups continue make the clarion call justice, accountability and peace.

Rights alliance Karapatan, in a statement on Tuesday, expressed indignation that two years since the Bloody Sunday, “none of the perpetrators of these attacks has been held to account.”

On March 7, 2021, the police served 24 warrants to community leaders and activists across provinces in Rizal. During these operations, nine were killed. They were: trade union leader Manny Asuncion; fisherfolk leaders Ariel and Chai Evangelista; urban poor activists Melvin Dasigao, Mark Lee Bacasno; and indigenous peasants Abner and Edward Esto, and Puroy and Randy dela Cruz.

The incident sparked widespread outrage and the DOJ promised an investigation, under its Administrative Order 35 mechanism that looks into a politically-motivated killings. Complaints have been filed over three killings since then.

But in January, the justice department dismissed the murder raps against police officers over the killing of labor leader Manny Asuncion, and Karapatan said “sends a chilling message that State forces can commit crimes with impunity.”

“Neither does it bode well for the Evangelista couple and the six other massacre victims whose cases are still under review even as the Commission on Human Rights has already determined that police operatives committed human rights violations when they served the warrant against the Evangelistas,” Karapatan added.

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

Rights group Defend Southern Tagalog said that the DOJ has yet to resolve the murder complaints over the killings of the Evangelistas, seven months after preliminary investigation proceedings were terminated. Investigation into the remaining killings are still in limbo.

Karapatan also noted that “targeting of legal, unarmed activists” continue to the present Marcos Jr. administration.

Defend ST has counted as a win the Supreme Court issuance that limited the authority of Manila and Quezon City judges in issuing what they call as “roving warrants,” and its rule on use of Body-Worn Cameras in execution of warrants. But they stressed that “the fight is far from over.”

“The current Marcos Jr. regime, like other administrations, only sharpened the contradictions in Philippine society where problems of prevalent poverty, landlessness, and joblessness remain the roots of armed conflict,” the group said, adding that the culture of impunity worsened due to the lack of accountability from crimes, including the Bloody Sunday killings.

“The people hungry for societal change must rely on their collective strength. True justice can only be serve d when the basic problems of our society are solved, and genuine peace can only be achieved if we fight for it,” Defend ST said.

Karapatan meanwhile vowed that they “cannot allow these violations to continue. We must demand accountability and justice for those who have been unjustly killed or persecuted. We must hold those in power accountable for their actions.”

vuukle comment

BLOODY SUNDAY

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS

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