Kin of slain activists lament Duterte human rights record | Inquirer News

Kin of slain activists lament Duterte human rights record

/ 04:44 AM November 02, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — It has been six months since Bayan Muna member Jory Porquia, a martial law survivor, was shot nine times in his home in Iloilo — one of many human rights defenders slain in the middle of the worst public health crisis the Philippines has faced.

Even now, the shadow of his death — and that of fellow Negros activist Zara Alvarez and former peace talks consultant Randall Echanis — casts a pall on the safety of human rights defenders as they continue to be red-tagged and vilified by the government.

“I cannot imagine the pain felt by many families of victims of state-sponsored killings after many years of not finding justice,” said Porquia’s son, Lean, who has taken up his father’s mantle in activist work. “The fact that nothing has been done by authorities to punish the perpetrators of my father’s killing six months after has been already enraging for me and my family.”


On All Saints’ Day, he and the bereaved of those who were killed or forcibly disappeared renewed their pledge to fight for justice under the Duterte administration, which, like some of its predecessors, is also confronted by calls to investigate and prosecute state agents accused of extrajudicial killings.


Even Typhoon Rolly, which struck the Philippines on Sunday, did not dampen their spirit. On Sunday afternoon, relatives, friends and supporters of extrajudicial killings lighted candles in their homes and workplaces to commemorate the dead.

“As families and friends of the disappeared, we have learned from our loved ones who were taken from us that the only way to put an end to enforced disappearances and human rights violations is to fight for a society which doesn’t allow the commission or repetition of such crimes,” said Erlinda Cadapan, mother of disappeared student Sherlyn.

Fourteen years ago, she and Karen Empeño were kidnapped by Army soldiers in Hagonoy, Bulacan province.

Retired general Jovito Palparan, nicknamed “The Butcher” for his deadly anticommunist campaign in behalf of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was later sentenced to life imprisonment over their forced disappearance. Cadapan noted that the “neutralization” tactics used against activists remain the same even under the Duterte administration.

“When our loved ones were abducted, the government feigned ignorance on their whereabouts, covered their tracks, and then consequently blamed the organizations and social movements they were part of to evade accountability,” she said. “And yet it was the government that red-tagged and vilified them, their organizations and movements were called ‘terrorists’ and marching orders for their ‘neutralization’ were given.”

Lean Porquia said his father was “proof that Red-tagging, which is based on outrageous lies, redound to graver human rights violations.”


Rights groups have documented at least 13 forced disappearances under the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency campaign “Oplan Kapanatagan,” and more than 25,000 killed by his war on drugs.

“Today, as we remember them: our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, lolos and lolas, we renew our pledge to fight for them, to call for justice and to struggle alongside the multitudes in demanding for social change,” Cadapan said.

Evangeline Hernandez, chairperson of the human rights organization Hustisya, said extrajudicial killings had continued and worsened.

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“Our loved ones were violently taken from us, and we will not rest until we find justice,” said the daughter of student activist Benjaline Hernandez, who was killed by militias in 2002.

TAGS: Jory Porquia, red-tagging, Rodrigo Duterte

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