Slain Negros activist helped raise human rights issues before UNHRC — Int’l group
MANILA, Philippines — The activist who was killed in Bacolod City was one of the paralegals who helped to bring human rights issues in the Negros island to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), an international group revealed.
According to International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), Zara Alvarez, who was gunned down last Monday by still unidentified assailants, was instrumental in raising awareness about the attacks plaguing the Negros provinces in the recent years.
The group said that they interacted with Alvarez last December 2019, when a high-level delegation composed of lawmakers, religious leaders, and trade unionists visited Bacolod City. ICHRP noted that Alvarez was working with them even though she was the subject of alleged red-tagging and harassment.
After the visit, the said delegation submitted a report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which released a report last June 4 saying that drug war operations in the country have brought it to near impunity.
In that report, UNHRC said that rights violations in the country stem from a “heavy-handed approach” to the illegal drug and perceived security threat problems.
“We mourn the killing of human rights worker Zara Alvarez, a brave and staunch defender of farmers and Filipino rights,” ICHRP said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Human rights defenders, farmers, farmworkers and civilians are being slayed one after the other with brazen impunity. The Duterte government’s policy of political killing merits international condemnation. These are our colleagues and fellow human rights advocates who are being killed like cattle,” ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy added.
Negros has been a hotbed for killings — from farmers to activists. In 2018, nine sugarcane farmers enduring “Tiempo Muerto” or dead season for sugarcane farming were murdered in Sagay City. Government authorities and communist rebels pointed hands at each other and until now, it is not clear who the perpetrator is.
Later that year, the lawyer for the nine farmers dubbed as the “Sagay 9” was killed near a store in his hometown of Kabankalan, Negros Oriental.
Then in July 2019, a series of killings occurred in Negros Oriental, culminating in the killing of 14 persons including people believed to be members of the communist armed group New People’s Army (NPA) as the killers left a chilling remark “traitor to the NPA”.
But the Communist Party of the Philippines insisted that they had nothing to do with the attacks.
Alvarez’ death came just a week after peace consultant Randy Echanis was killed inside his rented home in Novaliches, Quezon City.
ICHRP believes that Alvarez’ death was caused by her being red-tagged, like other victims in the Negros Island.
“This is so tragic. Zara was a brave defender of the poor and their rights. We witnessed in our visit in Negros her undeniable dedication to human rights work,” ICHRP vice-chairperson Rev. Jeong Jin Woo who was part of the high-level delegation last December said.
“We extend our condolences to the bereaved family and colleagues,” he added.
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