MANILA, Philippines — Various left-leaning groups have welcomed the Department of Justice (DOJ) Special Investigating Team’s recommendation to file murder charges against police officers involved in the death of a labor leader during the so-called Bloody Sunday raids in Calabarzon last March.
According to senatorial aspirant and Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, the indictment of police officers behind the operation where Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion was killed is a small victory for human rights. A total of nine persons died in the Blood Sunday raids.
However, Colmenares maintained that the fight for justice should not end with the indictment of the police officers as there are several other cases of slain activists, human rights workers, and labor leaders that are still pending before the courts.
“We welcome the filing of murder charges versus law enforcement agents involved in the death of labor leader Manny Asuncion, one of the nine victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre, early this year. This indictment is a small victory for human rights, especially in a climate of impunity,” he said in a statement.
“But the pursuit of justice should not end with this indictment. There are still hundreds of murder cases that need to move forward to find closure and justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings under this administration. Only until all lives lost under this impunity are accounted for and given justice can we claim victory,” he added.
Rights group Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) aired similar sentiments, saying that other cases should be resolved too, while jailed human rights workers should likewise be released.
“All victims of the Bloody Sunday raids deserve no less than justice. Those who remain imprisoned such as human rights worker Nimfa Lanzanas should be released, and we continue to urge that similar murder charges be brought against the perpetrators and commanding officers involved in the killings of all the nine who were killed,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
“The Asuncion criminal complaint is the first to be filed, but it shouldn’t be the last. All the 9 killed in the police raids were unarmed and were murdered. They deserve justice,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced that the AO 35 Special Investigating Team (SIT) recommended the filing of murder charges against certain law enforcement operatives involved in Asuncion’s death.
The Bloody Sunday raids last March 7 across Calabarzon provinces was a simultaneous police operation that resulted in the death of nine allegedly armed communist rebels — the same individuals whom rights groups said were mere activists.
The incident drew broad condemnation of the police and the government, with international rights organizations expressing concern over the state of human rights in the country. It also led DOJ’s task force and the Commission on Human Rights to probe the incident.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) which was then under the leadership of retired Gen. Debold Sinas maintained that the activists resisted arrest and fought back. Assorted firearms were also recovered from the scene, but the activists said those were just planted by authorities.
“We challenge the Department of Justice to continue pursuing the cases versus state actors who use their powers to harass and persecute activists. No stone must be left unturned in demanding justice for the gross human rights violations made by law enforcement agencies,” Colmenares explained.
“We will continue to be vigilant and monitor the investigations to ensure that the perpetrators of these atrocities are held to account,” Palabay added.