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‘This madness should stop’: Bayan Muna on killing of 3rd activist in Bicol

MANILA, Philippines—Leaders of a militant group of activists decried what they said was an escalation of attacks on the legal Left following the killing of a third activist in as many days in the Bicol region.

Rep. Carlos Zarate, of the party-list group Bayan Muna, said the killing of Neptali Morada on Monday (June 17) was the clearest sign that “rabid attack dogs are now going all out to eliminate activists and progressives.”

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“This madness should stop,” Zarate added.

“We are calling all freedom loving people to stand up and condemn these vicious and ruthless attacks against activists and human rights defenders,” Zarate said in a statement he and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares issued.

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Morada, Bicol regional coordinator of Bayan Muna, was gunned down at the village of San Isidro, Naga City in Camarines Sur province around 8 a.m. as he drove his motorcycle to work at the provincial capitol.

Morada, according to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Bicol information officer Vince Casilihan, left Bayan in 2000 and worked for former Camarines Sur Vice Gov. Ato Pena.

“This is a very dastardly and cowardly act, coming as it is on the heels of the twin-murder of human rights activists Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala just the other day in Sorsogon City,” said Colmenares.

The killing of Morada came just a few hours before Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes offered Mass for Bagasala and Hubilla around 10 a.m. also on Monday.

Bagasala and Hubilla, staffers of the human rights group Karapatan, were repeatedly shot by still unidentified men as they paid for their tricycle fare in Sorsogon City, Sorsogon province on Saturday (June 14).

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general, said Morada, 40,  was a former youth activist and campaign officer of Bayan based in Naga City.

“We are outraged by his death as he is the third activist to be killed in Bicol over the past three days,” Reyes said in a separate statement.

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A report from the Bicol regional police office said Morada was on his way to the city proper of Naga when he was shot by suspects aboard a white vehicle.

Police Staff Master Sergeant Tobias Bongon, Naga City police spokesperson, said city police had set up chokepoints and sent out an alarm for the suspects.

Karapatan, Bayan and Bayan Muna are some of the groups being tagged by authorities as supporters of the communist movement, which included the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).

The killing of members of militant organizations had caught the attention of a group of 11 rapporteurs and investigators of the United Nations which on June 7 issued a rare joint statement calling on the UN to conduct an independent investigation of summary killings linked to the Duterte administration’s violent campaign against illegal drugs and attacks on human rights defenders in the Philippines.

Saying the number of killings has reached a “staggering” level, the rapporteurs wrote that attacks on human rights defenders appeared to be state-sanctioned which could explain the impunity with which these were being committed.

But Malacanang dismissed the joint statement, saying the UN rights experts had resorted to exaggeration and relied on false information fed to them by critics of President Rodrigo Duterte and the opposition.

Although Malacanang kept dismissing calls for an investigation of human rights abuses in the Philippines as politically motivated, Duterte himself seemed to have ignited attacks on human rights workers that he linked to the underground rebel movement.

Upon his return from India in January 2018, Duterte reiterated an order to include as targets in his all-out war on communist rebellion organizations which he said were being used by communist rebels.

“I will go after the legal fronts” of rebels, Duterte said then.

Although Duterte did not identify the groups, several left-wing organizations had protested being tagged as Reds, or members of the underground communist movement, to justify military raids or attacks on their offices, their leaders or members.

Duterte, also in January 2018, declared that his counterinsurgency target was to destroy the communist apparatus which meant “everything, all legal fronts” would be in his crosshair.

He said his order to the military was crush the rebellion “and if you have to kill, do it because human rights…if our country falls apart, they would not help.” WITH A REPORT BY REY ANTHONY OSTRIA (Editor: Tony Bergonia)

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TAGS: Activist, Bayan, Bayan Muna, Bicol, Insurgency, progressives
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