Philippines: 9 trade unionists & HRDs killed and 4 arrested in 'Bloody Sunday' raids, rights groups call for accountability
On March 7, 2021, nine human rights defenders were killed while four were arrested. During the so-called "Bloody Sunday", the police and military served a total of 24 search warrants in the Calabarzon region, leading to 9 deaths and 7 arrests, in one of the deadliest days for activists in recent history for the Philippines. Earlier, on 30 December 2020, Filipino police officers raided Indigenous villages and attacked unarmed members of the Tumandok community while asleep, killing nine indigenous leaders and arresting at least seventeen other people.
Among the victims there are the couple Chai Lemita Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista, from the group Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan (UMALPAS KA), a peasant organization fighting against mining, land-grabbing, and climate change; urban poor activists Abner Damas Esto y Mendoza and Edward Damas Esto y Mendoza, members of an indigenous community opposing mining and eco-tourism projects in their ancestral lands; Mark Lee Bacasno, member of a legal housing rights organization that a opposes quarrying activities in Rizal province; labor leader Esteban “Steve” Mendoza, Vice-President of the trade union Kilusang Mayo Uno. Among arrested HRDs there are Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, well-known labor and multi-sectoral leader in Cavite; Michael “Greg” Dasigao, the president of farmers union SIKKAD-K3; Puroy De La Cruz and Pulong De La Cruz, activists with the group Dumagat Sierra Madre, which advocated for the rights of indigenous peoples; union leader Elizabeth “Mags”Camoral, former union president of F-Tech and current spokesperson of Bayan-Laguna.
On March 28, 2021 labor rights defenders, Dandy Miguel, was also killed in Canlubang, the Philippines. Miguel was the vice president of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU) and the president of the Lakas ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Fuji Electric union (LNMF-OLALIA-KMU). Environmental defenders Garry ‘Kurontoy’ Doroteo and Loreto Miranda Balino, who oppose the construction of dams in the ancestral lands, were also arrested on May 6, 2021, just after authorities called for speeding up the construction of Kaliwa dam. Few hours before the arrest, human rights group Karapatan had warned that based on reliable sources, a ‘Bloody Sunday Massacre’ like operation could happen.
On January 14, 2022, murder complaints were filed against 17 officers for the murder of the Evangelista couple, but rights groups claim that judges who issued the questionable search warrants and government officials should also be held accountable, including the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.