17 cops face murder raps in connection with March 2021 ‘Bloody Sunday’ ops

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THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday sought the prosecution of 17 police officers of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group who were involved in the killing of Ariel Evangelista and Ana Mariz Lemita-Evangelista during the so-called “Blood Sunday” operations against suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members on March 7, 2021 in the Calabarzon region.

The police officers involved in the service of search warrants in Nasugbu, Batangas that led to the deaths of the Evangelistas have been charged by the NBI with murder before the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

“This filing comes as the culmination of months of tireless work on the part of the Administrative Order No. 35 (s. 2012) Special Investigation Team (SIT) that conducted the investigation and case buildup with the invaluable and diligent assistance of the NBI,” the DOJ said in a news statement.

“The DOJ, as chair-agency of the AO 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,” it added.

The DOJ and the NBI are yet to release the names of the 17 police officers charged with murder. 

The task force was created under Administrative Order No. 35 issued in 2013 to investigate extrajudicial and politically motivated killings as well as human rights violations in the country. 

The members of the task force are the DOJ – as the lead agency- the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and NBI. 

The DOJ also reported that other similar cases involving deaths during the service of search warrants in Southern Tagalog last March 7, 2021 are also “progressing towards actionable status” in the dockets of the AO 35 Secretariat. 

With regard to the death of Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, a local coordinator of Bayan-Cavite Chapter who died in his office in Dasmariñas City, Cavite, the DOJ said its preliminary investigation is in the process of being transferred to the DOJ-Office of the Prosecutor General. 

It can be recalled that last December, the Task Force – SIT has endorsed the conduct of a preliminary investigation for possible filing of murder charges against 17 law enforcers believed to be involved in the killing of Asuncion.

Asuncion was shot dead by policemen at the office of the Workers’ Assistance Center (WAC) in Dasmariñas, Cavite, although the search warrant issued by Manila Judge Jose Lorenzo dela Rosa, was for his house in Rosario, another town in the province. 

In connection with the deaths of Melvin Dagsinao and Mark Bacasno, organizers and members of the SIKKAD-K# poor advocacy group who were killed in their homes in Rodriguez, Rizal, the DOJ said the AO 35 SIT was directed last month to undertake the filing of appropriate complaint relative to Dagsinao’s death.

On the other hand, the investigation into Bacasno’s death is still ongoing.

“These cases also represent an encouraging indication that Philippine national internal accountability mechanisms are working,” the DOJ said. 

“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,” it added.

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