Karapatan: “Bloody Sunday” killings, arrests in Southern Tagalog a direct order from Duterte

The killings and mass arrests in the “Bloody Sunday” police raids across Southern Tagalog yesterday are direct orders from President Rodrigo Duterte himself, human rights watchdog Karapatan asserted, especially after Duterte’s orders for the police and the military to “kill” and “finish off” all alleged communist rebels in the country.

“There is no other mastermind behind these gruesome murders but Duterte himself — who, just a few days ago, gave the go signal for this appalling carnage. Duterte’s red-tagging and public incitements to violence, especially against activists and human rights defenders, are undeniably translating to massacres, murders, and other forms of abominable violations of people’s rights. The blood of those killed in yesterday’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ raids is on the hands of Duterte and his bloodthirsty minions such as Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Commander Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

In various early morning police raids against alleged members of “Communist Terrorist Groups” in the region yesterday, March 7, have led to the arrests and killings of labor leaders, community organizers, and human rights workers. The raids came after Duterte spoke before the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in Northern Mindanao and ordered the military and the police that “if they find themselves in an armed encounter with the communist rebels, kill them, make sure you really kill them, and finish them off if they are alive.”

Karapatan has been able to confirm and gather additional information on the killing of Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, coordinator of the Cavite chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), during a raid led by the Laguna Provincial Police Office and Rizal Provincial Police Office in the office of the Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmariñas, Cavite around 5:30 a.m. Asuncion tried to negotiate with the police and assured them that he would cooperate if there is a legitimate search warrant being served. None was served, however, and Asuncion was dragged away from his wife Lizel before gunshots were heard; six bullets, three in the front and three in the back, were recovered from his body. Asuncion’s house in Brgy. Tejeros, Rosario, Cavite, where the search warrant against him is addressed, was raided simultaneously around 5:40 a.m. where the police supposedly recovered and confiscated various firearms. The said search warrant served in Rosario, Cavite was issued by Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 4.

In Brgy. Calayo, Nasugbu, Batangas, combined police and military elements forcibly entered and raided the home of Ana Marie “Chai” Lemita-Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista, leaders of fisherfolk group Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan, around 4 a.m. after they raided the neighboring house of Lemita-Evanglista’s father, Mandy Lemita. During the raid, their neighbors in the barangay heard gunshots and screams pleading for mercy, and after the raid, their neighbors and relatives found the couple’s 10-year-old son, who witnessed the killings, hiding under a bed in the house. The search warrant was issued by Manila RTC Branch 174 Presiding Judge Jason Zapanta.

Melvin Dasigao of urban poor group Sikkad Montalban and youth organizer Mark Lee Coros Bacasno were also killed in raids in Montalban, Rizal, which started at around 5 a.m. with two dump trucks full of soldiers and police from Cavite conducting the operations. Dasigao was pinned to the floor of his home while his wife and two children were brought outside. Minutes after, three shots were heard from the house. Bacasno’s home was raided almost at the same time as the raid on Dasigao’s home, and he was shot at least seven times. Local government officials reportedly arrived at the places of incidents after the operations.

Meanwhile, four individuals have been confirmed to have been arrested. Labor leader Esteban Mendoza, vice president of Olalia – Kilusang Mayo Uno, as well as BAYAN – Laguna spokesperson Elizabeth Camoral were arrested in separate police raids in Cabuyao, Laguna through search warrants issued by Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 4, who also issued one of the search warrants in the police raids that led to the massacre and mass arrests of Tumandok leaders in Panay last December. Police supposedly recovered firearms and explosives in the raids. Mendoza is currently detained at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba, Laguna while Camoral is detained at the Canlubang City Jail.

Nimfa Lanzanas, 61, a Karapatan paralegal to political prisoners and member of Kapatid – Timog Katagalugan, was also arrested in a raid in Calamba, Laguna based on false allegations that 3 guns and a grenade were in her belongings inside their home, where Lanzanas’s granchildren ages 6, 9, and 11 were sleeping beside her. Police raided Lanzanas’s home at around 4:45 a.m. She is currently detained at Camp Vicente Lim.

Eugene Eugenio, a member of the Rizal chapter of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, was also arrested in Antipolo City. Antipolo RTC Executive Judge Miguel Asuncion issued the search warrant against Eugenio resulting in his arrest on trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. He is currently detained at the Antipolo Police Station.

Palabay said that the raids in Southern Tagalog “replicate the bloody tactics that the police and military used in Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations that have led to the massacre of Tumandok leaders in Panay as well as the massacres and mass arrests in Negros since 2018, from serving bogus search warrants to tokhang-style public vilification and planting of evidence to justify these raids. The increasing involvement of the police in counterinsurgency operations under their so-called ‘whole-of-nation’ approach spells only one thing: mass murder of political dissidents as the fascist Duterte regime has done in its sham and bloody drug war.”

“Along with Duterte, the blood of those killed in the Southern Tagalog region is on the hands of the military’s Southern Luzon Commander and rabid Palparan wannabe Antonio Parlade Jr., who has threatened in one of his Facebook posts that ‘blood debts will be settled.’ There is no other way to interpret this as a foreboding of the bloodshed in region — and throughout the country — as the government ramps up its murderous campaign of State terror,” the Karapatan official averred.

“Duterte, Parlade, and this government’s devilish cabal of red-taggers, human rights violators, and war criminals must be held to account for these gruesome crimes against the people. These dastardly acts are obviously aimed at one thing: to terrorize us into silence — but we will not and never be cowed in our struggle for justice. We will not cease in our call to defend people’s rights and to end this fascist regime,” Palabay concluded.