Today, the National Bureau of Investigation filed before the Department of Justice a complaint for murder (NPS Docket No. XVI-INV-22A-0007) against seventeen (17) officers and personnel associated with the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (Region IVA) who were involved in the service of search warrants in Nasugbu, Batangas that led to the untimely deaths of spouses Ariel Evangelista and Ana Mariz Lemita-Evangelista on 07 March 2021.
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 invaluable and diligent assistance of the NBI. 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.
Along with the deaths of the spouses Evangelista, 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. Relative to the death of Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, a local coordinator of BAYAN-Cavite Chapter who died in his office in Dasmariñas City, Cavite, the preliminary investigation is in the process of being transferred to the DOJ Main Office (Office of the Prosecutor General).
And relative to the deaths of Melvin Dagsinao and Mark “Makmak/Calec” Bacasno, organizers and members of the SIKKAD-K3 urban poor advocacy group who died in their homes in Rodriguez, Rizal, the relevant AO 35 SIT was directed last month to undertake the filing of the appropriate complaint relative to the death of Mr. Dagsinao, with the understanding that the ongoing investigation into Mr. Bacasno’s death would continue until all relevant and necessary evidence have been gathered.
These cases represent the important ongoing collective work of the DOJ, the NBI, and the AO 35 SITs, which manifests 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.