Social activist and rights advocate Zara Alvarez murdered in the Philippines

Zara Alvarez was killed by unidentified gunmen in Bacolod City on Monday. The incident comes a week after NDF peace consultant Randall Echanis was killed near the capital Manila

August 18, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch

Filipina social activist and rights advocate Zara Alvarez was killed on Monday, August 17, by unidentified gunmen in Bacolod City in the island of Negros. The murder took place on the day of the funeral and burial of peace activist Randall Echanis, known as Ka Randy, who was murdered a week ago under similar circumstances near the national capital.

Alvarez was a prominent activist associated with the Negros Island Health Integrated Program and the human rights coalition Karapatan. Her work was largely concentrated in the agricultural belt of the Negros island, which has witnessed some of the most violent attacks on trade unionists and activists since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2017.

Alvarez was previously held in custody by the Philippines National Police over unsubstantiated charges of being a militant associated with the insurgent Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

She was also among the more than 600 people named in an official terror list by the Duterte administration in 2018, which was widely condemned as an act of vilifying activists. The list was heavily amended to only include two names after a court order.

Social movement leaders, left-wing parties and rights activists have cried foul over the two murders. Responding to her murder, Karapatan had given a statement expressing “deep grief and indignation”.

“Today, we laid to rest Ka Randy Echanis, one of those who helped Karapatan and staunch peace-builder and land rights defender. Tonight, we learned of the sad news that our former campaign and education director and paralegal in Negros, Zara Alvarez, was killed in Bacolod City,” the statement read.

“We will never relent in pursuing justice for Zara, Ka Randy, and all victims of extrajudicial killings,” Karapatan added.

Echanis was a peace consultant with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political wing of the CPP. Peace consultants are representatives of the communists in the peace talks with the government of president Rodrigo Duterte. The circumstances of his death resembled that of another NDF peace consultant Randy Malayao, who was killed in January 2019.

The left-wing political party Bayan Muna and the larger Makabayan coalition have called for an independent investigation into his death. They have also condemned Alvarez’s death and called her a victim of the government’s “hit list”, referring to the illegal terror list in which she was named.