Citing killing of Zara Alvarez, Karapatan presses SC to grant protection writs
Rights group Karapatan and its legal counsels file a manifestation on the killing of rights worker Zara Alvarez before the Supreme Court on September 1, 2020.
Karapatan, Handout

Citing killing of Zara Alvarez, Karapatan presses SC to grant protection writs

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - September 1, 2020 - 1:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights group Karapatan called on the Supreme Court Tuesday to grant the appeal for review of its petition for protective writs amid continuing attacks on rights workers.

Karapatan filed a petition for review on certiorari before the high court following the dismissal of its petition for the writs of Amparo and habeas data by the Court of Appeals. The appeal is still pending before the third division of the Supreme Court.

A writ of amparo is a protection extended to petitioners when threats to their life, liberty and security emanate from the military, police and other state security forces. A writ of habeas data requires the respondent state authorities to disclose to the petitioners all of the dossiers the former hold against them and, as warranted, to destroy such files against each of them.

READ: Court of Appeals dismisses rights groups’ plea for writ of protection, habeas data

On Tuesday, the rights monitor filed a manifestation before the SC stating the “rampant red-tagging and terrorist-labelling of human rights defenders in the Philippines has led to their harassment, incarceration on false charges or even killings.”

The manifestation detailed the fate of slain rights worker Zara Alvarez, who was supposed to be one of Karapatan’s witnesses to shed light on the red-tagging and harassment that human rights workers receive.

"Alvarez could have been given protection by the privilege of amparo and habeas data, had the same been granted by the Court a quo. It is too late now," Karapatan said.

Alvarez was gunned down by an unidentified assailant in Bacolod City on August 17. She was the 13th rights worker from Karapatan who was killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and the second intended witness in the petition for protective writs who was slain.

Ryan Hubilla, a rights worker with Karapatan, was gunned down in Sorsogon in June last year. He was 22.

Red-tagging an ‘actual threat’

Before she was murdered, Alvarez had been red-tagged — accused of being a communist rebel — Karapatan said.

The rights monitor submitted to the SC text messages from anonymous senders indicating that Alvarez would be killed. Her photo was also included in a tarpaulin with alleged personalities from the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front.

Alvarez was also included in the list of people the government wanted to legally declare as terrorists in 2018. Her name was later removed from the proscription list.

RELATED: How activists respond to being tagged as rebels

Karapatan stressed that the red-tagging that preceded the death of Alvarez was not an empty threat as it urged the court to re-examine its understanding of red-tagging and “finally see the same as threats to the people’s right to life, liberty and security.”

It earlier said that red-tagging by government forces is usually followed by threats through electronic or physical means, surveillance and harassment, arbitrary or illegal arrest and detention, or torture. In some cases, red-tagging also translates to enforced disappearances and even killings.

“With respect, the causality between Alvarez’s inclusion in the rogues gallery of 'communist terrorists' and her dastardly killing is too palpable to ignore. Her death proves that being subjected to red-tagging and terrorist-labeling constitutes an actual threat, and not merely one of supposition or with the likelihood of happening,” it said.

The group asked the court to stand with activists for the sake of all slain rights defenders.

"Alvarez’s untimely demise is precisely what petitioners sought to prevent by coming to court. Nevertheless, they continue to hope that the protection she was never given be extended to them—especially at a time when the promotion and defense of human rights is susceptible to being wrongfully interpreted, suppressed and punished by the State as terrorism," Karapatan said. — with report from Kristine Joy Patag

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