“In due time, the NUPL will move for reconsideration of the resolution and reassert that the police respondents’ theories — nay, fake plots — of self-defense and lawful performance of one’s duty are, under the circumstances, not compelling enough to overcome a finding of probable cause. They should be indicted before a court of law and made to answer for their crimes.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Lemita family will continue to seek justice despite the recent resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) clearing the 17 policemen in the killing of fisherfolk leaders Ariel Evangelista and wife Ana Mariz “Chai” Lemita.
The Evangelista couple were among the nine activists killed in simultaneous raids on March 7, 2021 in Southern Tagalog region.
On March 31, the DOJ released its resolution declaring that there is no probable cause to file murder charges against the 17 policemen involved in the deadly raid of the house of the Evangelista couple.
According to reports, the DOJ resolution said that the bullets found in the body of the couple did not match the firearms issued to the cops.
The DOJ prosecutors believed the police’s claim that there was a shootout since the alleged bullets that were recovered from the bedroom of the couple matched with the firearms the police allegedly retrieved from them.
Human rights groups and the family believe that these firearms were planted.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that the DOJ decision is contrary to the results of an investigation conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Southern Tagalog, which concluded that ‘there was no firefight inside the house where the victims allegedly died’ and that “there is strong evidence that the Evangelista couple were ‘summarily executed by state agents.”
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) also filed murder charges against the 17 members of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) Region 4-A.
The NUPL said that this recent DOJ decision is a grave disservice to the victims.
“This regrettable development in the much vaunted Bloody Sunday cases, which the government promised to closely investigate under its AO 35 mechanism, belies its pompous claim that it is rolling out ‘real justice in real time’ under an ‘effective and responsive justice system,’” the lawyers group said in a statement.
The NUPL added that together with the Lemita family, they will continue to pursue justice despite the threats and harassment from State forces.
The lawyers group said the police and the military have visited and insisted on talking to members of the Lemita family months after Chai and Ariel were killed. The State agents also reportedly filed terrorism charges against Chai’s sister Alaiza.
“In due time, the NUPL will move for reconsideration of the resolution and reassert that the police respondents’ theories — nay, fake plots — of self-defense and lawful performance of one’s duty are, under the circumstances, not compelling enough to overcome a finding of probable cause. They should be indicted before a court of law and made to answer for their crimes,” the NUPL said.
Progressive groups also decried the recent decision of the DOJ resolution.
“This is strike two for Marcos Jr.’s Justice Department, whose secretary boasted before international human rights bodies that he would mete out ‘real justice in real time,’” said Palabay.
Palabay said that this is after the DOJ panel of prosecutors, in January, also dismissed the murder charges against 17 policemen involved in the killing of trade unionist Manny Asuncion.
Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya meanwhile said, “The lack of interest of the Marcos administration in seeking justice for the unarmed activists who were killed in the so-called ‘Bloody Sunday massacre’ two years ago is undeniable.”
“We firmly stand by the innocence of the couple, who were active fisherfolk organizers in the province of Batangas before they were killed. They fought for the fishers’ rights to fishing grounds and against various forms of encroachment and destruction of the fishing waters such as conversion and privatization,” the group said in a statement.
For Palabay, the recent DOJ resolution does not bode well for the other six victims who were also killed during the bloody Sunday raids.
“This is considering that the results of the DOJ-led investigations in the cases of Manny Asuncion and the Evangelista couple are so ludicrous for disregarding facts, evidence and context,” Palabay said.
“These recent decisions regarding the Bloody Sunday killings affirm the bleak realities – that impunity reigns and there will be no justice forthcoming for victims of extrajudicial killings. At least not from the seriously flawed justice system that Secretary Remulla is so proud of,” Palabay added. (RTS, RVO)