Bloody Sunday @ 3: Duterte must be held accountable — Labor NGO

March 7, 2024

Today, March 7, marks the third year since the Bloody Sunday massacre and illegal arrests in the Southern Tagalog region.

We remember the nine activists killed by simultaneous police and military raids: labor leader Manny Asuncion; fisherfolk leaders Ariel and Chai Evangelista; urban poor activists Melvin Dasigao, Mark Lee Bacasno; and indigenous activists Abner and Edward Esto, and Puroy and Randy dela Cruz.

We denounce the arrests of seven activists: labor leader Steve Mendoza; Laguna BAYAN spokesperson Elizabeth Camoral; Karapatan paralegal Nimfa Lanzanas; public sector union leader Eugene Eugenio; activist Joan Efren; labor activists Ramir Corcolon and Arnedo Lagunias (arrested on March 4). Steve Mendoza is still in jail and we are calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

We stand with all of them, their families, friends and colleagues. We reiterate that all of them were activists working for the livelihood and basic rights of the marginalized communities that they serve. They were not members of any armed group, much less any terrorist organization. They were unarmed when they were killed or arrested, and they did not fight back against the police and the military. What was done to them is a crime that must be condemned and punished.

Three years after the massacre and arrests, we continue to condemn the Rodrigo Duterte and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr governments for denying justice to the victims. Until now, no one has been held accountable for these crimes.

We condemn the Duterte government for blaming the victims’ families, including Liezl, wife of Manny Asuncion, for supposedly failing to prove that the police were responsible for committing the crimes. We condemn the Department of Justice for dismissing, in violation of evidence and context of the case, in January 2023 the charges filed by Liezel against the 17 police officers who conducted the raids in Southern Tagalog.

Duterte himself, officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), former Southern Luzon Commander Antonio Parlade Jr., then-Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas, and judges Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa, Jason Zapanta, and Miguel Asuncion must all take responsibility. Their names will live in infamy.

The Bloody Sunday massacre and illegal arrests mirror many elements of the human rights crisis that Duterte has created in the country and continues under the present administration. (1) Laws are weaponized against activists. The military and police file charges against activists, and judges — often out of fear — release search warrants against the activists. (2) They launch operations and kill and arrest unarmed activists. (3) They claim that the activists who were killed fought back, and they plant evidence to support their storyline.

(4) The NTF-ELCAC demonizes the victims as communists and terrorists, simply because they are members of activist organizations, and popularize the the military and the police’s storyline. (5) Duterte does the same, and even calls on the military and police to go on and “kill, kill, kill” more. (6) Courts dismiss charges filed against military and police personnel involved in the operation.

At the same time, the Bloody Sunday massacre and illegal arrests also showed that Filipinos seek information about, and follow developments in, human rights violations issues. It showed that Filipinos speak out against these violations especially on social media. It contributed to the awakening of many Filipinos, especially the youth, who actively campaigned against Duterte and his anointed one in the 2022 elections and who continue to be critical towards the present government.###