Rights advocates call for end to vilification, killings of activists

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Rights advocates call for end to vilification, killings of activists
In this photo taken August 18, 2020, Anakpawis holds 'Candle Lighting for Justice' for slain activists Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez.
Anakpawis / Release

MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of human rights advocates called for an end to the killings and 'red-tagging' of activists and government critics under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement released on National Heroes’ Day, Monday, 500 human rights advocates raised the alarm over the spate of political killings over the past few months.

They said the killings of peasant leader Randall Echanis, rights worker Zara Alvarez and Bayan Muna regional coordinator Jory Porquia have highlighted the “increasing use of extrajudicial killings activists, political dissenters and members of the opposition.”

Echanis, Alvarez and Porquia had been red-tagged—labelled as communist rebels and enemies of the state—before they were murdered.

Activists warned the recently-signed anti-terrorism law could be used to maliciously tag activists and critics as terrorists, attack civil liberties and provide another pretext for even more killings.

The statement, signed by lawmakers, religious leaders, lawmakers, academics and social activists, called on Duterte himself to condemn and order a stop to the killings.

“He should stop inciting the police, military and even ordinary civilians to commit such horrible acts,” the signatories said.

A report of the Commission on Human Rights released in July said the president, through his pronouncements, “created a dangerous fiction that it is legitimate to hunt down and commit atrocities against human rights defenders because they are enemies of the State.”

The United Nations rights office, in its report, also said that vilification of dissent and attacks against perceived critics of the government are being “increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse.”

Call for probe

The rights advocates also called for an impartial and independent investigation into the killings of Echanis, Alvarez and Porquia as well as other EJK victims.

"The perpetrators of these killings and their protectors should be held accountable and punished. Only in this way will the reign of tyranny and impunity end," they said.

Among the signatories were Sens. Francis Pangilinan, Leila De Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Reps. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list), Edcel Lagman (Albay) and Kit Belmonte. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Bro. Armin Luistro, former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the National Union of People’s Lawyer also signed the statement.

Last week, 62 local and international organizations raised concern over the “ongoing extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations” in the Philippines.

The groups urged member and observer countries at the Human Rights Council to respond “robustly” to the report on the situation in the Philippines by the UN rights office and launch a probe into alleged EJKs and other rights violations committed during Duterte’s rule.

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