Justice chief sets gab with activists’ families

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday said he will talk with the families of two of the nine slain activists in separate police raids in the Calabarzon region last March 7.

Guevarra made the statement after his office received a letter from the families of activists Chai Lemita Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista, requesting a dialogue in connection with the Department of Justice’s investigation of their killings.

“Yes, we got it [letter] last week. We’re happy that the families of the victims have expressed trust in the AO 35 committee, Guevarra said in a text message to reporters.

“We’ll surely coordinate with them during the investigation,” he added.

In a letter dated April 7, Rosenda Lemita, the mother of Chai, and Imelda Evangelista, the mother of Ariel, said they believe the killings and arrests of the two activists “constituted grave violation to the law and the right to life.”

They expressed apprehension for their lives and sought an independent and truthful investigation into the incident to seek justice for their children.

The mothers believed in three reasons as to why the killings should be given due attention and thorough investigation:

• The mass approval of search warrants that were served during the raids;

• The police’s explanation that the victims fought back against authorities or “nanlaban,” which the families denied, saying the activists does not have the capacity to own firearms and explosives; and

• The previous harassments on the activists for being members of progressive groups.

“From these reasons, we are ready to do anything to find justice for their killings,” they said.

“This is not only because of our undying love for them but also because of their beliefs they held on to that caused their deaths: decent and dignified life for all. We are hoping to have a dialogue with you with our lawyers,” the mothers added.

The AO 35 committee is the inter-agency committee created by Administrative Order No. 35 in 2012 to investigate extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other grave violations of the right of life, liberty, and security of persons.

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