The Department of Justice (DOJ) junked charges against 17 police officers on January 16, 2023, for the murder of labor leader and general secretary of BAYAN-Cavite Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion in Cavite.
The murder case occurred as part of the so-called “Bloody Sunday” massacre or the Calabarzon killings on March 7, 2021, a day when simultaneous police raids took place in the early morning hours in Cavite, Batangas and Rizal, killing a total of nine activists and arresting six others.
The DOJ justified the decision in the Asuncion case by saying that there was a lack of evidence to prove that a crime existed as well as a lack of identification of the perpetrators. According to the police officers, they acted in self-defense. Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun determined, after the autopsy of Asuncion’s body on March 12, 2021, that it had to be a targeted killing due to the numerous gunshot wounds, especially in the chest area. She could not draw further conclusions due to the lack of access to the dead man’s clothing and the murder scene, among others. As a result, it could neither be proven that the officers had acted in self-defense nor that Asuncion had held or fired a weapon.
Asuncion’s wife, Liezel Asuncion, did not witness the shooting itself. She was also unable to identify the perpetrators because they were masked and kept their nameplates covered. This seemed questionable to Dr. Fortun, as she expressed in an interview, since it was an official police operation after all. Dr. Fortun also opined that her forensic medical report had been “twisted” by the DOJ to argue that the officers had acted in self-defense. In addition, she emphasized that there is always a need for an independent investigation because perpetrators should not be able to investigate their own actions.
Liezel Asuncion filed a motion for reconsideration with the DOJ on January 26, 2023. Her 27-page motion argues that the police officers acted with “abuse of superior strength, evident premeditation, and conspired with one another.”
Photo © Raffy Lerma