Zara Alvarez is our 13th rights worker killed under Duterte admin — Karapatan

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Zara Alvarez is our 13th rights worker killed under Duterte admin � Karapatan
Zara Alvarez, 39, worked for human rights group Karapatan and was a advocacy officer for a community-based health program. She was shot dead on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 in Bacolod City. Zara Alvarez's Facebook account
Karapatan, release

MANILA, Philippines — Activist Zara Alvarez is the 13th human rights worker of Karapatan killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the group said.

Alvarez, 39, was gunned down at around 8:00 p.m. of Monday in a private village in Bacolod City. She was a leader of campaigns against human rights violations, an advocacy officer of a community health program and paralegal of KarapataAn.

Karapatan slammed the killing of Alvarez, which came a week after peace consultant and peasant activist Randall Echanis’ murder and on the day when he was buried, as the group noted “what is beginning to look like killing spree of human rights defenders, peace advocates, and vocal critics in an attempt to sow terror and cower us into silence, especially now with the Anti-Terrorism Act in place.”

 “When will the killings stop? We just buried a peace advocate yesterday and we’re not even through with mourning his death and we now have to grapple with the killing of one of our colleagues!” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan said that Alvarez was arrested and detained for almost two years for a murder charge, but was acquitted on the same case on March 4 this year for lack of evidence.

Her name was also included in the more than 600 included in the Department of Justice’s proscription petition. While the DOJ later trimmed down the list to included only eight names, Alvarez, and peace consultants Echanis and Randy Malayao—whose names were also included in the list—were all killed.

Indigenous and Moro peoples raised the DOJ’s “wholesale proscription” petition in their legal challenge against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 filed before the Supreme Court.

RELATED: Cheat sheet on the looming legal battle on the anti-terrorism law

Alvarez was also included in the red-tagging posters that circulated in Bacolod City along with other activists and human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos who was killed in 2018.

And Alvarez had been receiving death threats, too, Palabay said. She added: “The military and police never ceased in harassing her even as she was distributing rice to impoverished members of her barangay just last April amid the mass hunger caused by the lockdowns. We have no doubt that State forces are behind her merciless murder — the latest in a string of killings in Negros ever since Memorandum Order No. 32 was implemented in November 2018.”

NUPL-Panay: Alvarez helped in cases over several killings in Negros 

In a separate statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-Panay Chapter remembered how Alvarez helped them in cases involving summary killings, illegal arrests and other human rights violations in Negros island.

“From Canlaon to Manjuyod, Sta. Catalina, Sagay, Escalante, Kabankalan, and Bacolod—wherever famers, peasant leaders, and rights advocates were imprisoned or killed—Zara was there to help the victims and their families get through the hardships brought by state-sponsored terror,” the lawyers’ group said.

“Her presence was a constant force in the struggle for justice—a beacon of light in a place that, for the past two years, has been shrouded by impunity,” they added.

Negros islands in 2018 and 2019 saw several killings, and the Senate committees, in a report in January 2020, recommended  the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service “investigate complaints and gather evidence for possible filing of administrative and criminal liabilities against police personnel and units involved in Oplan Sauron who may have committed abuses or violations of laws and/or the Revised Operational Procedures.”

READ: Senate report recommends PNP, AFP to probe its men over Negros killings

The Senate panels also proposed that the military look into its personnel involved in Oplan Sauron for “possible human rights abuses and/or violations.”

The NUPL chapter mourned the loss of Alvarez but vowed that they will continue to stand beside people who will bear the same courage and commitment to justice that Alvarez embodied in her life.

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