PHILIPPINE government prosecutors have cleared 17 cops in connection with the murder of a labor activist in a series of police raids where nine activists died in March 2021.
In a resolution dated Jan. 16, a panel of Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors found no probable cause against the police officers for the death of Emmanuel Asuncion.
“We lament the demise of Emmanuel Asuncion,” Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rodan G. Parrocha said. “However, the complainant and the evidence she submitted failed to discharge the obligation to prove the existence of a crime and identify the perpetrators,” he added, referring to the wife of the slain labor activist.
The court said Liezel Asuncion had failed to see the faces of the cops who allegedly killed her husband.
The police raids were based on 24 search warrants issued by trial courts in Manila and Quezon City.
In 2021, an inter-agency task force of the DoJ formed 15 teams that probed extralegal killings and human rights violations in the Philippines.
Last year, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a murder complaint against the 17 policemen allegedly involved in the raids and the killings of the other activists.
“There is no justice,” Renato M. Reyes, Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan tweeted in Filipino late Monday.
Defend Southern Tagalog in a separate statement said the acquittal reinforces the severe human rights violations by the government of ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“Asuncion’s killing serves as an example of how the people are deprived of great civic leaders and how the right to organize has been twisted and supplanted by the Philippine government,” it said.
Human rights abuses continued in the first six months of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s rule, Human Rights Watch said in a report last week.
The Philippines has accepted 200 recommendations from member-states of the United Nations Human Rights Council, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists and activists.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla has said the government does not sanction attacks, harassment or intimidation of activists.
He said an inter-agency task force on extralegal killings had investigated at least 17,000 police officers.
The UN Human Rights Committee has said the Philippines should comply with international human rights mechanisms.
The Philippine Commission on Human Rights has said the government of Mr. Duterte had encouraged a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquiries and failing to prosecute erring cops involved in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign. — John Victor D. Ordoñez