The Philippine National Police (PNP) has revealed the name of the operation in four provinces in Southern Tagalog that massacred nine and arrested several other activists Sunday, March 7.
The police said it served search warrants in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal provinces in a Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants dubbed COPLAN ASVAL.
The PNP in the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region bragged it “scored big time during the Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants” against alleged communist groups.
It said it “implemented” all 24 search warrants issued by trial courts that killed nine and arrested six activists. Nine others are still at large.
According to human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, the names of those killed include:
- Michael Dasigao and Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno in Rodriguez, Rizal;
- Manny Asuncion in Dasmarinas, Cavite; and
- Couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas.
Among those arrested were:
- Steve Mendoza and Elizabeth Camoral in Cabuyao, Laguna;
- Nimfa Lanzanas in Calamba, Laguna;
- Eugene Eugenio in Antipolo city.
Activist Lino Baez was among those who eluded arrest.
The police refused to divulge the names of the four others killed, five others arrested and eight others at large.
The PNP said all targets are communist “terrorists” who allegedly illegally possessed guns and explosives.
In press releases and television interviews, the PNP claimed those who turned up dead “fought to the operatives (sic).”
Legal activists as counter-insurgency targets
PNP-CALABARZON director B.Gen. Felipe Natividad admitted that the killing and arrest of the activists are part of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign.
“We have to act together to end the 51 year-old communist insurgency in the country. This is just one of the many initiatives and programs of the present government, and the Philippine National Police together with our counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Natividad said.
The police added ASVAL is part of “collaborative efforts” with the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to address insurgency.
“We have intensified our cracked down against members of CTGs (communist terrorist groups) in the region along with our counter-white area operations to convince these individuals to lay-down their arms and voluntarily surrender to authorities,” Natividad added.
COPLAN ASVAL was launched as two days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police and military at a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“If there’s an encounter and you see them armed, kill! Kill them! Don’t mind human rights! I will be the one to go to prison, I don’t have qualms,” the President said.
Known legal activists
COPLAN ASVAL’s victims are known legal activists, however.
Dasigao, a community organizer and an officer of a Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-affiliate organization, led relief operations after massive floods hit Kasiglahan Village in Rodriguez, Rizal late last year.
Asunsion was a well-known Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Cavite coordinator whose cadaver appear to have been dragged by the police from the upper floor of the Worker’s Assistance Center in Dasmarinas, Cavite, leaving streaks of blood on the floor and stairs.
The Evangelista couple were fisher folk rights advocates who were very much alive when dragged away by the police but later turned up dead in a funeral parlor in Nasugbu, Batangas.
Mendoza is executive vice-president of OLALIA-Kilusang Mayo Uno; Lanzanas is a paralegal of the political prisoners support group Kapatid-Southern Tagalog; Camoral is BAYAN-Laguna spokesperson; Eugenio is president of the Advancement of Rights and Responsibilities of Organized Workers LGU (ARROWS) – Antipolo City Hall; while Baez is an officer of BAYAN-Batangas. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)