Calls to stop the killings of human rights defenders were renewed under the hashtag “#StopTheKillings” following the recent death of two activists this month.
Negros-based activist Zara Alvarez, a 39-year-old leader of campaigns against human rights violations and advocacy officer of a community health program, was gunned down in a private village in Bacolod City on Monday.
Reports noted that she was a political prisoner before she worked as a paralegal for human rights organization Karapatan and as research and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program.
Alvarez, according to a police report, was shot dead by unidentified perpetrators.
She was included in the posters that circulated in Bacolod on 2018 red-tagging activists as suspected communist rebels.
Ben Ramos, one of those included in the posters, was also killed later that year.
Alvarez is the 13th human rights worker of Karapatan that was killed under the Duterte administration, according to the organization.
Her death comes on the day that another activist, Randall “Randy” Echanis, was laid to rest after being reportedly tortured and killed in his Novaliches residence last week.
Echanis was a 72-year-old chair of the Anakpawis party-list and a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
He was renowned for his efforts in agrarian reform and in helping craft the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.
The hashtag “#NotSafeAtHome” was launched in condemnation of Echanis’ killing at a time when the government implements the stay-at-home policy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives have sought for a legislative inquiry into his death.
Meanwhile, the hashtag “#StopTheKillings” trended on local Twitter on Monday evening following reports on Alvarez’s death.
Social media users, including Rep. Sarah Elago of Kabataan party-list, called for justice and for a stop to the spate of killings involving human rights workers and activists.
This morning, we saw the news that another farmer, Reken Remasog, was shot dead in Negros Oriental. And now, just in, a Bacolod-based human rights defender and activist, Zara Alvarez, gunned down. Last week, Randy Echanis. WHEN WILL THIS STOP? #STOPTHEKILLINGS #STOPTHEATTACKS !!
— gelbee (@theangelbee) August 17, 2020
BREAKING: Bacolod-based activist, Zara Alvarez, was killed a few hours ago in Mandalagan, Bacolod City.
— Sarah Elago (@sarahelago) August 17, 2020
Dr. Gene Nisperos, professor at the UP College of Medicine, likewise joined the calls and for an end to a culture of “impunity.”
Zara Alvarez was murdered tonight in Bacolod City. She was gunned down.
Zara is a human rights defender, with Karapatan-Negros.
Zara is a health worker. She is the advocacy officer of NIHIP, a community-based health program.
— doc gene (@genenisperos) August 17, 2020
Environmental group Youth Strike for Climate Philippines also decried the killings of Alvarez and Echanis that happened in a span of two weeks.
In a span of two weeks, two human rights and land rights defenders were killed.
DEFEND THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDERS!
— Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines 🌏🇵🇭 (@youth4climatePH) August 17, 2020
Based on Human Rights Watch‘s World Report for 2020, the Philippines has been hounded by “killings of political activists, community leaders and human rights defenders” last year.
“The extrajudicial killing by security forces and their agents of political activists, environmentalists, and human rights defenders continued, most notably on the central Philippine island of Negros,” the report of the New York-based organization said.
HRW noted that majority of the victims were activist farmers and farmer group leaders in Negros.
It added that killings also occurred in other parts of the country which involved a labor organizer, a church activist and different environmental activists.
“Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have linked many of these killings to members of the military, police, or security force-backed militias. Few of the killings of activists over the years have been seriously investigated, and few have resulted in convictions,” the 2020 report read.