Fortun: Autopsies suggest activists ‘shot to be killed’ | Inquirer News

Fortun: Autopsies suggest activists ‘shot to be killed’

/ 05:48 AM July 08, 2021

DEFENSIVEWOUNDS? Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun shows the autopsy results of fisherfolk sector leader Chai Evangelista, one of the nine activists slain in the March 7 “Bloody Sunday” raids in Calabarzon. Evangelista’s body bore
“defensive-type injuries” on her left forearm and fingers which, Fortun said, could indicate that she tried to shield herself and did not shoot it out with the police, as they had claimed. —SCREENGRAB OF FORTUN’S ONLINE PRESS CONFERENCE

MANILA, Philippines — The bodies of the nine activists who died in what became known as the “Bloody Sunday” raids in Southern Tagalog in March showed that they were “really shot to be killed” and that their deaths merit a full-blown homicide investigation, according to a forensic pathologist who had performed autopsies on them.

Dr. Raquel Fortun of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine said the slain activists—Manuel Asuncion, spouses Ariel and Chai Evangelista, brothers Edward and Abner Esto, cousins Puroy and Randy dela Cruz, Marvin Dasigao and Mark Lee Bacasno—each sustained at least two gunshot wounds, mainly in the chest.

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While they showed signs that they had “violent deaths,” Fortun said it could not be ascertained whether they resisted arrest or fought back (“nanlaban”), as claimed by the Calabarzon police who raided their homes and offices in simultaneous operations conducted in three provinces on March 7.

Scene unpreserved

The police failed to preserve the “crime scene,” Fortun noted when she presented the autopsy results in an online press conference on Wednesday.

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“The scene would have told us a lot. If the bullet went out, where was it recovered? That’s how you reconstruct the shooting. If (bullet) casings were found, that should tell you where the shooter was,” she added.

Since the bodies had already been examined by the medicolegal officers of the Philippine National Police and embalmed at funeral homes, the bullet wounds were already “altered and sutured” and the remains had already slightly decomposed by the time she saw them, Fortun said.

She said she also found it strange that one of the embalmers had retrieved a bullet from one of the bodies, which was later handed over to a relative of the deceased.

“That is worth pursuing… [though] that still leaves a lot of questions, because what business is that of an embalmer to scoop out a bullet from the body?” Fortun asked.

Legitimate ops

“Bodies are evidence. I am happy that ultimately the (relatives brought the) bodies to us. [But] somebody has to be in charge all the way from the (crime) scene to the body. Their integrities should never be compromised.”

The raids, conducted by a joint team from the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also resulted in the arrest of six other people.

Of the nine activists killed, six were in Rizal province, two in Batangas and one in Cavite.

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The Calabarzon PNP, through its spokesperson, Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, had maintained that the operations were legitimate as they were intended to serve search warrants issued by two Manila Regional Trial Court judges.

Four days after the raids, on March 11, then PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said, without offering proof, that the slain and arrested individuals were members of the communist New People’s Army and who were “hiding behind the facade of being activists.”

Reached for comment regarding Fortun’s statements, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra assured the activists’ families the investigation into the killings remained a top priority of an interagency panel headed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“Certainly, I want to expedite the conduct of the investigation… the Calabarzon incidents remain high in the priorities of the… committee,” Guevarra told the Inquirer, adding he had directed the committee—created by a DOJ administrative order to look into allegations of summary killings, enforced disappearances, torture and human rights abuses—to submit its latest report on the matter.

Guevarra also said there was “sufficient evidence” that the slain activists were members of organizations engaged in “legitimate dissent,” contrary to the PNP statement linking them to the insurgency. —With A report from Ana Roa, Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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TAGS: Activists, Bloody Sunday, Fortun
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