Murder charges filed vs 17 policemen

THE National Bureau of Investigation has filed murder charges against 17 officers and personnel of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Calabarzon for their involvement in the deaths of human rights activist couple Ariel and Ana Mariz Lemita-Evangelista.

The Evangelista couple were killed while being served their warrants of arrest in Nasugbu, Batangas, in March 2021.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Justice (DoJ), similar cases involving the deaths of several other human rights activists during the service of search warrants in Southern Tagalog on the same date are “also progressing towards actionable status.”

With the filing of the charges, the DoJ said it will now begin the preliminary investigation “in earnest, with all the due consideration of the victims and the constitutional rights of the alleged perpetrators.”

The Evangelista couple, staff members of environmental group Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwasak ng Kalikasan, were among the nine killed in what activists call the “Bloody Sunday” raids in the provinces of Rizal, Batangas and Cavite.

The DoJ said the filing of murder charges was a result of “months of tireless work” by the Special Investigation Team under the inter-agency committee formed under Administrative Order No.35 that conducted the investigation and case buildup.

Meanwhile, the Justice department said in the same statement that the preliminary investigation on the killing of Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, a local coordinator of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Cavite Chapter, who was also among the activists killed during the Bloody Sunday raids, is in the process of being transferred to their main office under the Office of the Prosecutor General.

The DoJ also said that a special investigation team was directed last month to file the appropriate complaint over the killing of Melvin Dagsinao, also among the activists slain during the raids.

The investigation into the killing of Dagsinao’s fellow organizer and member of urban poor advocacy group Sikkad-K3, Mark Bacasno, “would continue until all relevant and necessary evidence have been gathered,” the DoJ added.

“There is zero tolerance for impunity in the ranks of Philippine law enforcement agencies, and these mechanisms are in place for the maintenance of an environment free from threats to anyone’s life, liberty and personal security,” the DoJ said.

Calabarzon comprises the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.