Duterte, NTF-ELCAC, etc must also be held accountable for the killing of Evangelista couple, other Bloody Sunday victims

While human rights alliance Karapatan welcomed the filing of murder complaints against the police personnel involved in the service of search warrants that killed fisherfolk leaders Ariel Evangelista and Ana-Mariz “Chai” Lemita-Evangelista during the Bloody Sunday raids throughout Southern Tagalog last March 7, 2021, the group asserted that President Rodrigo Duterte, officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), then-Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Debold Sinas and the PNP’s regional and provincial officials, and judges who issued the questionable search warrants must be held accountable as well.

The raids led to the killing of nine individuals and the arrest of four human rights defenders. December last year, murder complaints were also filed against cops involved in the raid of the Workers Assistance Center office in Dasmarinas, Cavite which resulted in the killing of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Cavite coordinator and trade union leader Emmanuel Asuncion.

“As we welcome the filing of murder complaints against the policemen involved in the killing of Ariel and Chai Evangelista, we urge the Administrative Order No. 35 task force to include in their investigations the culpability of NTF-ELCAC officials such as its former spokesperson Antonio Parlade Jr. and former PNP chief Debold Sinas who incited and/or justified the violence that ensued during the Bloody Sunday raids — and especially President Duterte’s kill-kill-kill order to the police and the military mere days before the raids,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay added that “then-Police Regional Office 4A chief and now PNP Special Action Force director Felipe Natividad, and provincial police heads Col. Rex Malimban of Batangas and Col. Marlon Santos of Cavite should likewise be investigated on their command responsibility for the said incidents. Manila Regional Trial Court judges Jason Zapanta and Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa, who issued the search warrants against the Evangelista couple and Asuncion respectively, should likewise be subjects of scrutiny.”

Yesterday, January 14, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a press statement that the National Bureau of Investigation had filed murder complaints against 17 officers and personnel of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Regional Force Unit 4A for the operation that killed the Evangelista couple in their seaside hut in Brgy. Calayo, Nasugbu, Batangas, as they served a search warrant issued by Judge Zapanta for supposed illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The Evangelista couple were staff members and leaders of the Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan, a community organization that monitors the impacts of eco-tourism projects in Batangas. The DOJ’s announcement also followed the publication of a joint communication sent by four United Nations Special Rapporteurs to the Philippine government October last year regarding the killings of the Evangelista couple, Asuncion, and housing rights advocates Mark Bacasno and Melvin Dasigao in the Bloody Sunday raids.

“Along with the President Duterte, Sinas, Parlade, and the NTF-ELCAC, the judges who issued the search warrants that were served during the Bloody Sunday raids such as Judge Zapanta and Judge Dela Rosa, and regional and provincial level police officials have blood on their hands for basically writing the permit for this carnage, and for justifying this bloodshed as ‘legitimate law enforcement operations.’ Justice cannot be served selectively in dribs and drabs: all those culpable for these crimes should be brought to justice,” the Karapatan official continued.

“We laud the families of victims, the witnesses in these incidents, and various groups for their perseverance and courage in pursuing justice and accountability. Nonetheless, we fight on. There will be no genuine justice for the victims of the Bloody Sunday raids if not all perpetrators and accomplices in these attacks are made accountable — especially those at the top who explicitly gave such murderous orders and those who continue to justify and legitimize these killings — and as long as the killings, arrests, and harassment of human rights defenders continue,” she ended.