Karapatan blames state forces for activists' killings but Palace rejects tag

Karapatan blames state forces for activists' killings but Palace rejects tag
In this photo taken August 18, Anakpawis holds 'Candle Lighting for Justice' for slain activists Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez.
Anakpawis / release

MANILA, Philippines — Rights group Karapatan laid the blame for the killings of activists Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez on State forces, a claim that the Palace said is unfounded.

Progressive groups on Wednesday morning gathered at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City on the Global Day of Action for Justice at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani to condemn the murder of Echanis, Alvarez and other victims of extrajudicial killing.

The killing of peasant activist Echanis and rights worker Alvarez happened with only a week in between the brutal murders.

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

In a statement on Wednesday morning, Karapatan said State forces are “complicit, if not directly behind” Alvarez’s death, the 13th rights worker of the group slain under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Zara has long been a target of military, police, and judicial harassment for her tireless and dedicated work in defending people’s rights. She had already been imprisoned for nearly two years for a now-dismissed murder charge from the military — and all of the threats that she had received were from State security forces," Karapatan Secretary General Cristian Palabay said.

Palabay also said that police harassed Alvarez "by filing complaints against her for distributing rice to impoverished members of her barangay just last April amid the government’s failure to provide adequate aid and relief caused by the lockdowns."

The group pointed out that Alvarez, Echanis and Randy Malayao—killed while sleeping in a bus in 2019—were among the 600 names reportedly included in the Department of Justice’s petition for proscription that was latter trimmed down to eight.

It also said the government has been "strongly averse to the idea of upholding and defending human rights, and is actively and proudly engaged in violating human rights."

Alvarez and rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, killed in 2018, were also red-tagged in posters that circulated in Bacolod City in 2018.

But presidential spokesperson Harry Roque rejected the claim that State forces are behind the killing.

“We denounce any form of violence perpetuated against citizens, including activists. We are a nation of laws; and violence has no place in any civilized society,” he said.

Roque also noted that investigations are already ongoing. “Blaming state forces as the people behind these murders is unfounded as investigation on the killings... is now underway. Let us wait for the formal report from the authorities,” he added.

‘Global Day of Action for Justice'

Anakpawis party-list, of which Echanis was chairperson, said the killings are “politically motivated and extrajudicial, as the victims...were all targets of neutralization by the state.”

Former Rep. Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis party-list) also noted the DOJ’s proscription list. “This is the life-and-death dangers of terrorist-tagging, so comfortably done by the president and his armed henchmen,” he said.

Militant fisherfolk group Pamalakaya said that Duterte “institutionalized” killing of activists through “Executive Order No. 70, or the ‘whole-of-nation’ approach to counter-insurgency and formation of the anti-communist National Task Force, Memorandum Order No. 32, the virtual order to attack activists in Negros, Samar and Bicol region and the Republic Act No. 11479 or the notorious terror law branded by activists.”

RA 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is facing at least 29 legal challenges before the Supreme Court.

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

Peasant women’s group Amihan noted that at present 262 farmers have been killed, including women and children.

On Negros Island, Alvarez was the 90th victim of extrajudicial killing, Amihan said. — Kristine Joy Patag with report from The STAR/Alexis Romero






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