Families of 9 slain activists ask gov’t to speed up probe

Published April 21, 2021, 3:57 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Government investigators have been asked to expedite their probe on the March 7 deaths of nine activists in South Luzon provinces.

A group which calls itself Defend Southern Tagalog (Defend ST) said the families of those who died during the joint police and military operations feel “threatened” by the heavy military presence in their areas.

The fears, apprehensions and the plea for a swift probe were relayed to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a dialogue held on Wednesday, April 21.

“They (the families) said that every day, they fear they would be next,” Defend ST said.

 Despite their fears, the group assured the DOJ that they will cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

“Aside from updates from Special Investigation Teams, the families also expressed that speeding up the investigation is especially critical,” it said as it pointed out that “threats are now extended to them.”

The deaths of the nine activists who had alleged links to communist groups have been under investigation by the DOJ-led inter-agency committee on extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra last  April 11, said he may meet with some families of the nine activists after receiving a letter from the two mothers of those who died.

Those who sent a letter to Guevarra were Imelda Evangelista and Rosenda Lemita, the mothers of couples Ariel and Anna Mariz, respectively.

Ariel and Anna Mariz were both members of the Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan which has been described as a community organization monitoring the impacts of eco-tourism projects in Batangas.

“For these families, it’s hard enough to accept the tragic fate of their loved ones. But the search for justice compounds this burden. If anything, these families do not just seek justice, but also to make sure that nobody would suffer the same way they are now,” Defend ST Spokesperson Charm Maranan said.