MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday, January 14, filed murder complaints against 17 cops over the killing of two of nine activists killed during the “Bloody Sunday” operations in March 2021.
In a statement, the NBI said it had filed the case before the Department of Justice on Friday for the killing of activists Ariel Evangelista and Ana Mariz “Chai” Lemita-Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas. The NBI said the police officers and personnel involved in the case were from the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Calabarzon.
According to the six-page complaint, the NBI found that the cops who implemented a search warrant on the Evangelista couple had a “deliberate intent to kill.”
The address in the search warrant for illegal firearms and explosives was the home of a relative, Anatalio Lemita. Instead of just looking for the items in the warrant, the cops looked for the Evangelista couple, who were found in a nearby cottage.
“The operating team wore bonnet masks during the implementation of search warrants, despite the cover of darkness…. Spouses Ariel and Ana Mariz were forcibly taken and brought to Anatalio’s house,” said the NBI complaint.
“Other members of the operating team were scattered outside Anatalio’s house, telling the occupants of the nearby house to close the windows and warning other guests of Lemita’s cottages not to take videos,” the complaint added.
According to the trajectory of the bullet, and based on the entry and exit of the fatal wounds, the NBI said it suggests “the spouses were in upright positions and at a lower position than the shooter.”
Cops had alleged that all nine victims of the Bloody Sunday raids were armed and fought back.
Upon receiving the complaint, the NBI said the justice department will now conduct a preliminary investigation into the case filed.
“The DOJ, as chair-agency of the Administrative Order (AO) No. 35 Inter-agency Committee, will now begin the preliminary investigation of the case in earnest, with all due consideration to the families of the victims and the constitutional rights of the alleged perpetrators,” the bureau said.
AO 35 pertains to the creation of a task force led by the Department of Justice. It was created under the Aquino administration to act on the continuous attacks on progressive individuals, including extrajudicial killings.
On March 7, 2021, at least nine activists were killed by the police during their simultaneous operations in Southern Luzon. At least six activists were also arrested by the authorities during the operations.
The filing of cases for the death of the Evangelista couple was also the most recent murder complaint filed against the police. In early December last year, 17 cops also faced murder complaints for the death of labor leader Manny Asuncion.
‘Warning’ to law enforcers
In a statement, BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes said they welcome the filing of new cases and said it should serve as a “warning” for law enforcers.
“The filing of this latest criminal complaint should serve as a warning to law enforcers who will allow themselves to be used for extrajudicial killings and the weaponization of search warrants. There will be a time of reckoning,” Reyes said.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Monday, January 17, lauded the filing of charges, calling the recent development “a big step forward for the human rights community.”
“Kaya hindi puwedeng masanay tayo sa namamayaning sistema ng kawalang-katarungan, kahit paulit-ulit na ang patayan at pag-atake sa mamamayan,” she said in a statement.
“Kahit gaano pa man kahaba at kasalimuot ang proseso, sa huli mananaig pa rin ang katotohanan,” she added.
(We should not get used to the culture of impunity, even amid continued killings and violence. However long and grueling the process is, truth will still prevail.)
Rights group Karapatan, who has been helping the victims of Bloody Sunday, urged the DOJ-led task force to also include some officials of the government’s anti-insurgency task force in their probe.
“We urge the Task Force on Administrative Order 35 to include in their investigations the culpability of officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and former PNP Chief Debold Sinas who incited and encouraged violence on the organizations of the slain human rights defenders and/or justified the police and military operations in Southern Tagalog,” the group said. – Rappler.com