CHR says recent activist killings prove dangers of red-tagging
MANILA, Philippines — Whoever was the perpetrator behind the killing of an activist in Negros Oriental, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) believes that the dangers have been brought by her being red-tagged on numerous occasions.
According to CHR, the killing of Karapatan’s paralegal staffer Zara Alvarez on Monday, which came just a week after peace consultant Randy Echanis was found dead inside his rented home in Quezon City, presents an alarming string of attacks against human rights workers and advocates.
Most of these slain activists have been red-tagged, or implicated as members of communist armed group New People’s Army.
“The killing of Zara Alvarez is another addition to the alarming string of attacks against human rights workers and advocates in the country. The [CHR] sees this as a cause for concern, especially that the number of cases is still growing and justice is nowhere in sight,” spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said on Thursday.
“CHR stresses […] that the act of red-tagging of human-rights defenders alone already constitutes a grave threat to their lives, liberty, and security. Further, tagging human rights workers and advocates as terrorists distorts the nature of their work and makes them open, legitimate targets to attacks and a number of violations,” she added.
CHR noted that Alvarez was one of several activists included in a list of supposed terrorists made by the Department of Justice in 2018. Bayan Muna party-list, which condemned the killing of the activist, said that it appears that the list has turned into a hit list as some of the persons inside have been neutralized.
“Reports about Alvarez note that she has been a target of red-tagging and was once part of the list in 2018 of more than 600 people that the Department of Justice wanted to tag as terrorists,” De Guia said.
“However, her name was taken off the said list, but the exclusion still did not spare her from the ultimate violation of her rights,” she added.
The commission assured that they will investigate the incident, and urged the government to probe the killing of Alvarez even if her death is initially found out to be not related to her work.
“But, even if the killing of Alvarez was not linked to her work, it does not erase the duty of the government to prevent arbitrary deprivation of life from happening, as well as keeping communities safe and free from attacks to human life and rights. And, should violations happen, government must step up as well in ensuring that perpetrators are held to account,” De Guia explained.
“Our CHR Region IV’s Sub-Office in Bacolod has already launched a motu proprio investigation on the case to help in seeking justice for this death,” she stressed.
Various local and international rights advocates have condemned the incident. Some also believe that the attack was state-sponsored, although Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque maintained that they are against any form of violence against citizens, including activists who may be critics of the government.
On Thursday, activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan dared Malacañang to prove its sincerity by ordering a probe on the incidents, including other attacks against activists within the past five months.
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