Filipino activists reiterate demands for protection from political murders

Human rights advocacy group Karapatan Alliance has approached the Philippines supreme court seeking protection. The group has documented the murder of 185 human rights defenders and social movement activists since July 2016

September 01, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Philippines state violence against activists
Representatives of the Karapatan Alliance addressing the media outside the court complex while holding copies of the manifestation submitted to the court. (Photo: Karapatan Alliance Philippines/Facebook)

Human rights advocacy group Karapatan Alliance has approached the Philippines supreme court for protection from political murders. On September 1, Tuesday, legal counsels of Karapatan Alliance filed a plea urging the court to take measures to prevent state-sponsored killings and harassment of activists. The submission cited the recent killing of Zara Alvarez, a health activist and member of their Negros Island branch, by unidentified gunmen last month. Alvarez was killed on August 17, a week after the murder of peace consultant Randy Echanis on August 10.

“As we file our manifestation today on the killing of Zara Alvarez, we call on the Supreme Court to grant our petition for review of the petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data amid the successive threats and worsening attacks on human rights defenders in the country,” Karapatan stated over their Facebook page.

The writs of amparo and habeas data are legal provisions in the Philippines to deal with extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances. The manifestation opened by noting the recent slew of political murders in the country under the administration of president Rodrigo Duterte. 

“For the past years, the rampant red-tagging and terrorist-labelling of human rights defenders in the Philippines has led to their harassment, incarceration on false charges or even killings,” the submission stated.

This is the second attempt by Karapatan to secure amparo and habeas data for their activists. A previous attempt was dismissed by the Court of Appeals on June 18, 2019, despite the fact that activist Ryan Hubilla was murdered just three day before. Alvarez was one of the witnesseses in the petition then, which could have accorded her judicial protection from threats to her life.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay in her statement pointed out the reluctance of the courts to act. “The delays are literally killing us! While the Court of Appeals outrageously dismissed our petition, the State’s targeted attacks against human rights workers from Karapatan have continued and worsened,” she stated.

Yesterday, Karapatan posted about death threats against their Negros island deputy secretary, Juluis Dagatan, who is also a media liaison for left-wing coalition Bayan Muna. Karapatan has documented 328 killings “in line with the government’s counterinsurgency program” since July 2016. The organization has stated that 185 of these murders were of human rights defenders and social movement activists. It also stated that with Alvarez’s murder, 13 of their activists have now been killed under the Duterte administration.