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Monday, October 3, 2022

Two more social activists murdered in the Philippines

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On August 10, 2020, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randall “Randy” Echanis was made to suffer 15 wounds before he was killed by unidentified assailants and was found dead in his rented room in Novaliches, Quezon City. A week after this incident, another unidentified assailant had fatally gunned down Zara Alvarez, a legal worker for the human rights group Karapatan and is based in Bacolod City. The Philippine human rights movement is grieving over the killing of these 2 Social activists which happened in a span of a week.

Zara Alvarez is a former political prisoner, She was the chair of Anakbayan-Negros, the progressive youth organization, and previously served as deputy general secretary of BAYAN-Negros as well as campaign and education director of KARAPATAN Negros. Imprisoning her on trumped-up charges did nothing to lessen her commitment to the people and society. In fact, Amid the pandemic, Zara Alvarez has been conducting relief operations as part of a community health program despite repeated threats to her life and security.

On the other hand, Ka Randy Echanis is the chairman of the Anakpawis Partylist and also a former political prisoner. “Ka Randy was also a great internationalist and anti-imperialist. His more than five decades of dedication in fighting for land reform in the Philippines include his active involvement in the peasant movement in Asia. He was active in international work with the Asian Peasant Coalition, an Asia-wide peasant coalition of farmers, Indigenous Peoples with more than 15 Million members representing 21 organizations.”

The victims shared similar backgrounds as they both worked in leftist, grassroots organizations. They had also been tagged as part of the “Terror list” in the proscription case filed in Manila Regional Trial Court in 2018. although their names were subsequently removed. Another activist on that list, Randy Malayao, was shot dead in January 2019.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said it appears that the DOJ list has become a “hit list of sorts,” as they either end up arrested on trumped-up charges or worse, assassinated. This also lead the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president, Edre Olalia to state that Killings of both Echanis and Alvarez “brings back ugly memories of extrajudicial killings during Arroyo’s time.”

The murders of Alvarez and Echanis also show how the government’s new anti-terror law can be misused considering its contested provisions on the Anti-terrorism council as the chief enforcer of the law. It is also said that this newly passed law is a threat upon people’s rights defenders and activists struggling to defend the land, workers and people from imperialism and exploitation. Nevertheless, The government has an obligation to ensure that all activists in the Philippines have the full protection of the law, and not be subject to harassment and murder.

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