Story by Chase Ralutin
Families of the nine slain activists in the ‘Bloody Sunday’ police operation condemned the ruthless killing of the police and demanded justice for their loved ones in a press briefing March 12.
Relatives, along with their paralegals, recounted their experiences of the simultaneous police raids in Calabarzon last March 7 where the police killed at least nine and arrested six others.
Anna Baez, wife of BAYAN Batangas Spokesperson Ka Lino Baez who was one of the activists killed, recalled how the police barged into their home and threatened to shoot them if they did not open the door.
“Pinalabas kami ng mga anak ko. Silang tatlo ay pumasok sa loob at nagtagal sila doon nang isang oras bago dumating ang mga barangay,” Baez said.
Relatives debunked police claims that the nine activists possessed grenades and firearms and were affiliated with underground insurgent groups.
Santiago Bacasno, father of SIKKASD-K3 member Markeny Bacasno, denied accusations that his son was linked to the New People’s Army.
Markeny was a construction worker who provided for his family, he added.
“Nagmamakaawa ang anak ko, nanghihingi ng paliwanag kung anong kasalanan niya. Pero wala silang nasabing kasalanan. Walang warrant of arrest, basta lang pinatay,” Santiago said.
Rules on warrantless arrests state that an arrest can be made only when law enforcement officers catch the person in the act of committing a crime, or in this case, possessing the firearms.
Carl Corcolon, son of leader unionist Ramir Corcolon, asserted that his father was a church leader who only helped people in their community, especially those with problems with their water system. He said that his father could not have possessed an explosive or a firearm.
Corcolon also added that his father was a government employee who never had any criminal record.
Paralegals said that all nine activists who were killed never owned any firearm.
They added that Mags Camoral, one of the slain activists, only served as a human rights defender of farmers in Hacienda Yulo.
“Wala po kaming ganon sa opisina, kami ay mga volunteer lang po sa #DefendYuloFarmers na tumutulong sa panawagan ng mga magsasaka,” said Marife Valdeavilla, a volunteer who worked with Mags Camoral Elizabeth in Bayan Laguna.
One of the paralegals said that police tactics in raiding and operation “seemed to be a pattern where they first got to conduct raids before the barangay officials came to witness the searching.”
According to the PNP guides on human rights based policing, the police in charge shall have coordination with Barangay Human Rights Action Officer (BHRAO) on joint human rights plans and activities; protective services to victims of human rights violations; and other mission-essential tasks related to human rights promotion and protection at the community level.
However, families and their paralegals all point towards the ‘questionable tactics’ of the police where they would plant firearms during a raid and later call on barangay officials as witnesses. This would then implicate the people whose houses or residences were being searched.
“Halos mahigit isang oras bago dumating ang barangay official at hindi man lang hinarap ang biktima,” the paralegal said.
Baez also noticed that the police took P18,000 worth of cash along with two cellphones during the raid.
“Tinanong ko kung bakit nila dinala noon. Ako ay pinapipirma sa katibayan na wala silang kinuha pero kinuha nila ang pera at cellphone,” she added.
The police told Baez that the belongings taken can only be returned once her husband proved to the police that he did not own any firearms.
This bloodshed comes after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military and the police to ‘kill’ and ‘finish off’ communist rebels in a meeting with the National Task force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on March 8.
Families and human rights groups called on national government officials to stop the killings among urban poor activists in the region.
“Imbes na kill, kill, kill ay kilalanin at igalang ang karapatang pantao. Magkaroon ng investigation para kay PNP Debold Sinas na nanguna sa madugong operasyon sa Southern Luzon,” BAYAN Southern Tagalog said in a statement.
According to the paralegals, police investigations and simultaneous hearings of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ police operations are still ongoing.