MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors dismissed the murder complaint filed against cops over the death of couple Ariel Evangelista and Ana Mariz “Chai” Lemita-Evangelista, who were among those killed during the “Bloody Sunday” police operation in 2021.
In a resolution dated December 5, 2022, but publicized on Friday, March 31, the panel of prosecutors consisting of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Marmarie Satin-Vivas, Assistant State Prosecutor Glacy Tabirara, and Prosecution Attorney Hegel Jasper Balderama junked Rosenda Lemita’s complaint she filed on behalf of her daughter, Chai. The complaint was dismissed due to insufficiency of evidence, according to the resolution.
The police respondents are as follows:
- Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Tan Nandu, Jr.
- Lieutenant Arjay Santos
- Master Sergeant Rafael Roque
- Master Sergeant Mark Tolentino
- Staff Sergeant Elvern Cacatian
- Staff Sergeant Rodel Sillacay
- Staff Sergeant Edgar Brinas
- Corporal Aldrin Gabrillo
- Staff Sergeant Allen Lugue
- Patrolman Julio Bautista
- Patrolman Ray Boom Boom Dalingay
- Patrolman Grizzly Paras
- Patrolman Rogelio Ninolla
- Patrolman Ruel Tentoso
- Patrolman Rich John Melniel Tumacder
- Patrolman Renzo Santos
- Patrolman Mark Lester Padul
In January 2022, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) pushed for the murder complaint against the cops after the NBI had found that the police officers and personnel had a “deliberate intent to kill.”
As chair-agency of the Administrative Order (AO) No. 35 Interagency Committee and due to its prosecutorial mandate, the justice department did a preliminary investigation into the case and could decide whether the complaint should continue or not. AO 35 pertains to the creation of a task force led by DOJ and was created under the Aquino administration to act on the continuous attacks on progressive individuals, including extrajudicial killings.
On March 7, 2021, nine activists were killed by the police during their simultaneous operations in Southern Luzon – including on the Evangelista couple. At least six activists were also arrested by the authorities during the operations. (READ: Leaders lost: The 9 activists killed by Duterte gov’t on ‘Bloody Sunday’)
Earlier this year, in January, the DOJ also junked the murder complaint filed against cops over the death of labor leader Manny Asuncion.
In explaining its resolution, the prosecutors said the complainants made a “sweeping” allegation of conspiracy because they claimed the police were present at or near the place of the killing. According to the prosecutors, this was not enough to establish a conspiracy in the killing.
The prosecutors also said the evidence submitted was not sufficient to establish the “culpability” of the cops. On the one hand, the ownership of the firearms that allegedly killed the spouses was not identified. On the other hand, some of the fired bullets and cartridges were from the pistols recovered from the Evangelista couple, the prosecutors claimed.
“This is consistent with the established fact that respondent Ariel fired upon the operating team while implementing the search warrants,” the resolution read.
The cops also argued that the Philippine National Police issued 9 mm caliber guns as service firearms, while the fired cartridges and bullets were either fired from a caliber .45 or a 5.56 mm. According to the prosecutors, since no 9 mm bullets were recovered from the Evangelistas’ house or within its premises, the cops could not be held liable for the case.
In addition, the prosecutors said they were “left to guess and make blind assumptions” on who fired at the spouse and killed them. – Rappler.com
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