Department of Justice

DOJ junks murder complaint vs cops tagged in labor leader’s death

Jairo Bolledo

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DOJ junks murder complaint vs cops tagged in labor leader’s death

JUSTICE. Human rights activists stage a silent protest at the People Power Monument in Dasmariñas, Cavite on January 11, 2022, as the court starts hearing the death of BAYAN leader Emmanuel Asuncion, who was killed during the Bloody Sunday Massacre. 17 policemen and an agent of the CIDG are indicted in the murder case that took place in Brgy. Salitran Dasmariñas Cavite on March 7, 2021.


(1ST UPDATE) The complaint, pursued by the special investigating team under former DOJ chief Menardo Guevarra, is dismissed under Remulla's time

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) panel of prosecutors dismissed the murder complaint filed against cops tagged in the killing of a labor leader during the “Bloody Sunday” operations in 2021.

In a 23-page decision dated October 5, 2022, the prosecutors dismissed the murder complaint for “insuffiency of evidence” in relation to death of Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion on March 7, 2021. His wife, Liezel, filed the complaint.

Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rodan Parrocha and Assistant State Prosecutor Moises Yao Acayan signed the resolution. Among the named respondents were the following personnel of the Philippine National Police:

  • Lieutenant Elbert Santos
  • Lieutenant Shay Jed SapitulaPolice Corporal
  • Senior Master Sergeant Hector Cardinales
  • Master Sergeant Ariel Dela Cruz
  • Staff Sergeant Joemark Sajul
  • Corporal Ernie Ambuyoc
  • Corporal Mark John Defiesta
  • Corporal Arjay Garcia
  • Corporal Caidar Dimacangun
  • Corporal Bryan Sanchez
  • Corporal Ericson Lucido
  • Patrolman Jayson Maala
  • Patrolman Juanito Plite
  • Patrolman Jonathan Tatel
  • Patrolman Prince Benjamin Torres
  • Patrolman Jaime Turingan
  • Patrolman Rey PJ Dacara Lopera

The prosecutors also ordered the records to be returned to the National Bureau of Investigation “for the conduct of further investigation to determine the identities of the assailants.”

During the simultaneous operations against progressive individuals in March 2021, Asuncion was killed in Cavite. He was the secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in his province, and a known labor leader and mass organizer in the Southern Luzon. (READ: Labor activists after leaders’ killing: Hope is what’s left for us)

At least nine activists were killed, while six others were arrested during the so-called “Bloody Sunday” operations conducted in different locations.

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The search warrant, issued by Manila First Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo dela Rosa, covered Asuncion and his residence in Rosario, Cavite, where he allegedly possessed a .45 caliber pistol and ammunitions. But, the labor leader was killed in Dasmariñas City – roughly one hour away from where he was slain.

Then-justice department, led by now Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, moved to sue the cops involved in Asuncion’s death through the Administrative Order No. 35. The order created the panel to probe politically-motivated killings.

Now, under DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, the complaint has been dismissed.

Meanwhile, the NBI had previously filed complaints against 17 cops who had “deliberate intent to kill” activists Ariel Evangelista and Ana Mariz “Chai” Lemita-Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas also during that “Bloody Sunday” on March 2021. The complaint is still pending before the DOJ.

Prosecutors’ resolution

In its resolution, the panel of prosecutors said the circumstances presented by the complainant were “insufficient” to establish that the cops committed the crime of murder against Asuncion. 

“Applying the foregoing in the present case, the undersigned panel finds that the circumstances presented by complainant in support of its accusation against the respondents are insufficient to establish probable cause for the crime of Murder as the complainant Asuncion failed to adequately substantiate her allegations against all the respondents.”

The prosecutors noted that although Liezel said she can identify more or less six of the cops, “she did not directly and categorically identify them.” They added that Asuncion’s wife also failed to identify the respective participation of each cop in the alleged crime. 

“A perusal of complainant Liezel Asuncion’s complaint-affidavit shows that she was not able to establish the identity/ies of the assailant/s. Although she identified the group of people who entered their house to be police officers, nevertheless, she was not able to see their faces…”

The resolution also noted that Asuncion’s wife said she was not able to see who shot her husband “because she was already outside the house when she heard the gunshots.” The prosecutors said that there was no eyewitness to the crime, adding that “there was also nothing that directly incriminates the respondents in killing him.”

“To reiterate, all that was presented by complainant were circumstantial evidence that does not show an unbroken chain that leads to a fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to the probability that respondents committed the offense,” the resolution read. 

On the service of the warrant, the prosecutors claimed that there is evidence proving that implementation of the warrants was legitimate, and that Asuncion “resisted.” 

First, the prosecutors said the gunpowder nitrates found in Asuncion’s hands proves “the assertions of the respondents that he (Asuncion) fired upon them.” 

Second, the bullet holes found in the staircase landing wall correlated with the autopsy report stating that Asuncion sustained gunshot wounds in his chest. According to the prosecutors, this proved the cops “made defensive shots from the ground floor” when the slain activist allegedly fired at them from the second floor.  –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.