Prosecutors uphold ruling clearing 17 cops in ‘Bloody Sunday’ case
MANILA, Philippines —The panel of state prosecutors is standing by its March 2023 ruling dismissing the criminal case against 17 police officers for the death of a fisherfolk couple during the simultaneous service of a search warrant in 2021, now known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Rosenda Lemita, the mother of Chai Lemita-Evangelista and in-law of Ariel Evangelista, filed the motion for reconsideration to reverse the earlier findings of the panel that there is no sufficient evidence to file a case for two counts of murder against members of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) Region 4-A.
“A close scrutiny of the motion for reconsideration shows nothing that would warrant the reversal of the findings of the panel. The complaint did not sufficiently prove conspiracy, but merely relied on a baseless assumption that the PNP conducted its operations specifically to kill spouses Evangelista,” the resolution stated.
According to the complaint Lemita and the NBI, the Evangelista couple was targeted by COPLAN ASVAL’s virtual kill list.
COPLAN ASVAL was an anti-insurgency program launched during the term of then president Rodrigo Duterte.
But the panel said what is clear from the records were the procedures conducted by the police before the search warrant service supporting the legitimacy of the police operation.
“As there was no conspiracy, the complainant failed to establish the person who actually killed the spouses but only made a sweeping accusation against all police officers who participated in the operation,” the resolution further stated.
The March 2023 resolution by the DOJ noted that the couple was killed using one firearm that did not match any of the guns of the 17 police officers.
Ariel and his wife Ana Mariz, who led their community in opposing the construction of at least 150 fish cases on the fishing grounds of Nasugbu, Batangas, were among the nine killed in a series of raids in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region on March 6, 2021.
The panel recommendation was affirmed and signed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon and Prosecutor General Benedict Malcontento.
One of the lawyers of the policemen, Atty. Rod Moreno said: “While we sympathize with the complainants’ loss, they should get their evidence together and stop harassing my clients by scrounging for evidence trying to revive a clearly dead case.”