A week after the death of Randall “Randy” Echanis, another activist was slain by unidentified gunmen last night, this time in Bacolod City.
Zara Alvarez, a paralegal for human rights organization Karapatan, was killed at about 6:45 pm in the village of Mandalagan.
She is the 13th member of the organization to be killed under the Duterte government, Karapatan said in a statement.
Tinay Palabay, Karapatan’s secretary-general, said that Alvarez, 39, was imprisoned for almost two years after she was arrested in 2012 for murder charges, which she was acquitted of in March. After being set free, Alvarez resumed her work in their organization and also served as a research and advocacy officer for the Negros Island Health Integrated Program.
Like Echanis, Alvarez was included in the Department of Justice’s list of alleged terrorists released in 2018. While her name was eventually removed from the list, the threats against her life by alleged government forces continued, Palabay said. In the same year, she was included in posters that accused her and other Bacolod City activists of being communists, including Benjamin Ramos, a lawyer who was shot to death in November 2018.
Palabay said that the “military and police never ceased in harassing” Alvarez and even did so when the latter was distributing rice to her neighbors in April.
“Zara Alvarez was a fierce and dedicated human rights defender, and her death is a tremendous loss for all of us and those who worked with her in advancing and defending people’s rights and we strongly call for justice,” Karapatan’s secretary-general said.
“That she was gunned down merely a week after Randy Echanis was brutally tortured and murdered — and on the very day he was buried — strongly suggests that these senseless and cold-blooded killings are part of an orchestrated murderous rampage to silence dissent, with human rights defenders as targets and fair game,” Palabay added.
Echanis was brutally killed in his rented Novaliches home last week, allegedly by government forces. His death resulted in a tug-of-war between the Philippine National Police and his family after cops snatched his body from his wake, releasing it only after it was determined that the corpse belonged to Echanis. His family intends to sue the Quezon City Police District for the incident.