THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed the murder charges against 17 police officers who took part in a simultaneous police operation tagged as “Bloody Sunday.”

In a decision handed down by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rodan Parrocha, it said the complaint filed by Liezl Assuncion, wife of Emmanuel, one of the nine individuals killed during the said operation in various parts of Calabarzon on March 7, 2021, lacks sufficient evidence to prove the existence of a crime.

“We lament the demise of Emmanuel Asuncion. However, the complainant and the evidence she submitted failed to discharge the obligation to prove the existence of a crime and identify the perpetrators thereof,” the decision reads.

“In the absence of proof, there could be no probable cause to charge the respondents,” it added.

The decision ordered for the records to be returned to the National Bureau of Investigation for the conduct of further investigation.

The respondents on the case were Lieutenants Elbert Santos and Shay Jed Sapitula; Senior Master Sergeant Hector Cardinales; Master Sergeant Ariel Dela Cruz, Staff Sergeant Jemark Sajul, Corporal Ernie Ambuyoc, Corporal Mark John Defiesta, Corporal Arjay Garcia, Corporal Caidar Dimacangun, Corporal Bryan Sanchez, Corporal Ericson Lucido, Patrolman Jayson Maala, Patrolman Juanito Plite, Patrolman Jonathan Tatel, Patrolman Prince Benjamin Torres, Patrolman Jaime Turingan, and Patrolman Rey PJ Dacara Lopera.

On Wednesday, January 18, 2023, labor and rights group members conducted a picket protest in front of the DOJ office in Manila as they condemned the decision.

Asuncion said the charges were “whitewashed.”

In response to her accusations, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the case is not over yet as it only needs more evidence in order to stand in the court.

“They still have to make a better case build-up to be able to file a case that we can prosecute in court, kasi it’s useless to file a case kung hindi rin namin mapoprosecute. Bigyan pa ng panahon para makahanap pa ng ebidensya,” he said in an interview with reporters.

“They are trying to exploit this as a political angle for the National Democratic Front (of the Philippines), Manny (Emmanuel) was a member of Bayan Muna, ‘tsaka sa labor din siya. So they are picking a political line here, which I hope that they will not use to pressure the prosecutors in the prosecuting of the case. We need good cases to file hindi naman pwede file tayo ng file ng kaso hindi mo naman kayang manalo,” he added.

In the complaint, Asuncion said the police barged into their house in Cavite and conducted a raid without showing any search warrants.

She said they were wearing ski masks, which made it hard for her to identify them.

Asuncion said her husband was separated from her until she heard gunshots after a few minutes.

The Asuncion residence was just one of the many houses raided by the police that night.

The common ground is that the subjects of the operations were all affiliated to various activist groups.

Police said the operations were in line with the government’s, then under President Rodrigo Duterte, campaign against loose firearms.

Human rights groups rejected the police claim, saying that the operations were connected to the pronouncement made by Duterte, two days before the said operation, for the police and military to “kill” communist rebels and “ignore human rights.” (SunStar Philippines)