Death threats, harassment hound activists in the Visayas
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Five days after he and hundred others buried slain human rights defender Zara Alvarez, Julius Dagatan received a death threat similar to what Alvarez received before she was slain in Bacolod City.
“Malapit na araw nyan … makukuha din namin ‘yan (His time is near… we will get him),” according to a text message sent by an unknown person using mobile phone number 0963-1721626.The message, which named Dagatan, was sent to the national offices of the human rights group Karapatan and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.
Dagatan, Karapatan-Negros deputy secretary-general and media liaison of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros, was among those who attended the burial of Alvarez in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental province, on Aug. 26.
A gunman repeatedly shot Alvarez while she was on her way to her boarding house in Bacolod City on Aug. 17. The 39-year-old activist died of multiple bullet wounds.
Police have not identified and arrested her killers.As a paralegal of Karapatan, Alvarez helped monitor and document the killings and arrests of lawyers, farmers and members of progressive organizations in Negros.
During the wake for her, death threats, through text messages, were sent to nine Negros-based activists, including Clarizza Singson, Karapatan-Negros secretary general and Dagatan’s wife.
In a series of tweets posted last week, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard reiterated the call of the UN Special Procedures (composed of independent human rights experts) to the UN Human Rights Council to “establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines.”
“Zara is the most painful and saddest reminder as to why these demands must be answered. Every month that passes, every day that goes by, there is one more arbitrary killing, one more Zara, one more, one more. Enough,” Callamard said.
In Iloilo City, posters Red-tagging a priest, known leaders and members of progressive organizations, and human rights lawyers again appeared in several areas in the city.
They were accused of being “recruiters and supporters of the terrorist Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)” and their photographs were displayed next to Ma. Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The posters were signed “Panay Alliance of Victims of the CPP-NPA.”
These were similar to those displayed in Iloilo City streets starting in 2018, noted Lean Porquia, son of slain Bayan-Muna-Iloilo City coordinator Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia.“They did this months before my Tatay was brutally murdered. They’re doing it again,” he said.