17 policemen face murder complaint for death of couple on March 7, 2021 police-military raids

Published January 14, 2022, 5:40 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

National Bureau of Investigation (2)

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday, Jan. 14, a murder complaint against 17 policemen for the death of a couple during the March 7, 2021 joint police-military operations in Southern Tagalog provinces to ferret out alleged members of communist groups.

In a statement, the DOJ said those charged were members of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in Region IV-A for their involvement in the deaths of Ariel Evagelista and Ana Mariz Lemita-Evangelista.

But the DOJ did not identify those named in the complaint as it explained that “the names of the respondents should be available once the Office of the Prosecutor General issues the corresponding subpoenas directing them to appear and answer the complaint against them.”

“This filing comes as the culmination of months of tireless work on the part of the Administrative Order No. 35 (s.2012) Special Investigation Team that conducted the investigation and case buildup with the valuable and diligent assistance of the NBI,” the DOJ said.

`“The DOJ, as chair-agency of the AO 35 Inter-Agency Committee, will now begin the preliminary investigation of the case in earnest, with all due consideration to the families of the victims and the constitutional rights of the alleged perpetrators,” it said.

The DOJ noted that the Evangelista couple were killed in Nasugbu, Batangas while the policemen were serving search warrants against them.

It said that “other similar cases involving deaths during the service of search warrants in Southern Tagalog on 07 March 2021 are also progressing towards actionable status in the dockets of the AO 35 Secretariat.”

Among these cases, the DOJ cited the preliminary investigation of the case concerning the death of Bayan-Cavite local coordinator Emmannuel “Manny”Asuncion. The case is now “in the process of being transferred to the DOJ Main Office. (Office of the Prosecutor General).”

It also said that the AO 35 special investigating team was also directed to file complaints concerning the deaths of Melvin Dagsinao and Mark Bacasno, organizers and members of the SIKKAD-K3 urban poor advocacy group who were also killed by police on March 7, 2021.

It pointed out that the actions taken “manifest the Philippine government’s commitment to hold erring law enforcement officers and personnel to account for any excessive actions in the field.”

“These cases also represent an encouraging indication that Philippine national internal accountability mechanisms are working. There is zero tolerance for impunity in the ranks of Philippine law enforcement agencies, and these mechanisms are in place for the maintenance of an environment free from threats to anyone’s life, liberty, and personal security,” it stressed.