THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed murder charges against 17 policemen of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) over the death of a couple during a police operation tagged as “bloody Sunday” in 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 BI,” the NBI said in a statement.

“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,” it added.

Spouses Ariel Evangelista and Ana Mariz Lemita-Evangelista were killed during the service of a search warrant in their residence in Batangas on March 7, 2021 amid the police’s campaign against loose firearms.

The operating cops claimed the couple resisted arrest, sparking a gun battle that resulted in the couple’s death.

At least seven other people were killed on that same day when the police conducted a simultaneous service of arrest warrant in the Calabarzon region.

They were all affiliated to various activist groups.

Human rights groups rejected, however, the police claim, saying the operations were connected to the pronouncement made by President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, March 5, for the police and military to “kill” communist rebels and “ignore human rights.”

There were also several witnesses claiming that the victims were executed.

Meanwhile, the NBI said it is also investigating on the deaths of the other individuals that night, including Emmanuel Asuncion, a local coordinator of Bayan-Cavite Chapter, and Melvin Dagsinao and Mark Bacasno, organizers and members of the Sikkad-K3 urban poor advocacy group.

“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,” it said.

“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,” the NBI added. (SunStar Philippines)