Groups condemn killing of red-tagged human rights lawyer

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Groups condemn killing of red-tagged human rights lawyer
Riding-in-tandem suspects sprayed bullets at Anthony Trinidad's car while it was traversing the national highway near the Iglesia ni Cristo church in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.
The Freeman via Katriel Serion

MANILA, Philippines — The killing of another lawyer in Negros island—whose name was said to be on a “hit list”—highlights the dire consequences of red-tagging on the lives and security of human rights defenders.

Groups Karapatan and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers stressed this Thursday as they condemned the killing of human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad.

The 53-year-old lawyer and his wife were inside their vehicle when two motorcycle-riding assailants shot them in Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental Wednesday afternoon. Trinidad was killed, while his wife remained confined due to serious injuries.

Both groups noted that Trinidad was red-tagged prior to his killing. His name was included in a flyer bearing the names of alleged supporters of communist rebels.

Cristina Palabay said the killing of Trinidad exposes that “hit lists” often translate to killings.

“This only proves as well that the perceived dangers of being arbitrarily, maliciously and baselessly red-tagged are neither imaginary nor contrived, but constitute real threats to life, liberty and security,” Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general, said.

Philippine jurisprudence defines red-tagging as “the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy... by state agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the state.’”

In August 2018, activist Haide Flores—who was included on the same list—was gunned down.

Human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr. and former Escalante, Negros Occidental Councilor Bernandino Patigos were placed on the same poster list labeling them as terrorists before they were killed by motorcycle-riding assailants in November 2018 and April 2019, respectively.

“Hit lists are enumerations of targets. It is meant to harass, but it is also an explicit threat to one’s life. The fact that these lists include names of community leaders, activists and human rights defenders point to the conclusion that these violations are systematic and methodical,” Palabay said.

Last month, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petitions for writ of amparo and habeas data filed by Karapatan together with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela.

At least 40 judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, according to NUPL.

“How can we believe the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that the Philippine justice system is ‘robust, functional, and very effective’ when lawyers themselves in pursuit of peace and justice are in the line of fire?” Olalia said.

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