Karapatan protests the killings of two of its members: Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala and peasant leader Nonoy Palma.
Karapatan, Released
CHR investigates killing of activists in Bicol
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - June 17, 2019 - 6:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights said Monday it has launched an investigation into the killings of three activists in Bicol region.

“CHR-Region 5 has deployed a quick response team to probe and monitor the resolution of these injustices,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said.

Former Bayan Muna Bicol regional coordinator Neptali Moraga was gunned down in Naga City, Camarines Sur while on his way to work Monday morning, making him the fourth activist killed in the last three days and the third in the region in as many days.

Moraga’s death came after the killing of two human rights workers in Sorsogon and a peasant leader in Bukidnon.

Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala of Karapatan-Sorsogon were killed by unidentified gunmen on Saturday morning while riding a tricycle. Hubilla was 22 and a senior high school student, while Bagasala was 69 years old.

Karapatan said the killing happened after their members in the province were subjected to “periodic surveillance” by government security forces.

Nonoy Palma, a member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-affiliated KASAMA Bukidnon, was also shot dead outside his house Sunday morning. One of the perpetrators was allegedly identified as a member of paramilitary group Alamara.

“These are the recent alarming attacks in a spate of condemnable violence and hostility directed toward members of activists groups particularly in areas where there is increased military presence,” De Guia said.

The CHR spokesperson also stressed the victims’ rights, especially their right to life, must be protected by the government regardless of their affiliation.

“We cannot stress enough that swift justice need to be pursued to stop the normalization of violence in our society. The killings have been continuing and escalating but there is seemingly no proactive actions being done to protect human rights activists from another brash attack,” De Guia said.

The Philippine National Police on Monday said the identities of those killed should be verified, claiming Karapatan and KASAMA Bukidnon might be taking advantage of the deaths to make the government look bad. He said it has to be checked whether the murder victims really are members of the activist groups.

Human Rights Defenders Bill

De Guia said these incidents should prod the passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill in the 18th Congress.

She noted the proposed measure would ensure prosecution of those who commit violations against human rights workers.

Last June 3, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 9199 but its Senate counterpart filed by Sen. Leila De Lima languished in the previous Congress.

De Lima, a former CHR chair, vowed to refile in the 18th Congress the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill.

“Ngayon, higit kailanman, kailangan natin ng batas para protektahan ang mga tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao, na laging nalalagay sa panganib dahil sa kagustuhan nilang tindigan ang inhustisya sa bansa,” De Lima said.

(Now, more than ever, we need a law that will protect human rights defenders whose lives are always at risk for standing up against abuses in the country.)

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